Environmental Exposures and Autism: The Interplay Between Genes, Environment and Health Status was presented by ACAT’s Alaska Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE-AK). Listen to this podcast for a discussion on what environmental exposures may be involved in autism, how environmental exposures may impact people with autism, and why chemicals policy reform is necessary to protect public health. Autism is a complex disorder with varying expression in individuals. While genetic research has demonstrated that autism has a strong hereditary component, there is increasing research on the possible role of environmental exposures. Join Dr. Martha Herbert of Harvard Medical School for a discussion of emerging science on how exposures to toxic chemicals may contribute to autism and other health and brain conditions. One way this can occur is through affecting physiology and brain function, starting during early development and continuing throughout the lifespan. Some chemicals that are widely used in consumer products are considered highly likely to contribute to autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, yet they have not undergone even minimal assessment of potential toxicity. Maureen Swanson of the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA) will discuss how you can advocate for policy changes that will protect children from these harmful chemicals.
Maureen Swanson is Director of the Healthy Children Project for the Learning Disabilities Association of America focused on raising awareness of toxic chemicals linked to learning and developmental disabilities, and reducing exposures to toxic chemicals, especially among pregnant women, infants and children. Prior to her position with LDA, Maureen was a senior policy analyst with the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance, and an independent environmental policy consultant, working with clients in government, private corporations and academia. She holds a master’s degree from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs and a bachelor’s degree from Bucknell University.
Dr. Martha Herbert is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, a Pediatric Neurologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and an affiliate of the Harvard-MIT-MGH Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, where she is director of the TRANSCEND Research Program (Treatment Research and Neuroscience Evaluation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders). Her main research interests are in addressing autism as a “dynamic encephalopathy” (something that can change) rather than a “static encephalopathy” (something that is fixed for life) and in how environmental vulnerability affects brain and body health and function. She received the first Cure Autism Now Innovator Award and is now on the Scientific Advisory Committee of Autism Speaks. Full bio.