By Dennis D. Embry, Ph.D.
In much of the developed world, autism appears epidemic—but not caused by vaccinations. Three variables are at work, which bear explanation for my readers. My essay summarizes a must read medical article entitled: The role of oxidative stress, inflammation, and acetaminophen exposure from birth to early childhood in the induction of autism. You can read a summary by the first author that is linked to the full medical article. Consider the tripod of causes:
Inflammation is one leg of the tripod of risk for autism. Most of us notice the effects of inflammation from the skyrocketing rise of Asthma or allergies (e.g., wheat, peanuts, pollen) and autoimmune diseases (e.g., diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis). What causes increasing markers of inflammation: high omega-6 diet, too much simple sugar, lack of exercise, psychological stress, vitamin D deficiency, and a dramatic change in our gut bacteria (friendly biome depletion).
Oxidative Stress is not something most readers will know much about. Oxidative stress in our bodies is metaphorically like iron or steel rusting when exposed to oxygen. Something similar happens in our bodies, and it increases based on toxins we breathe in our air, drink in our water, or food we eat.
Acetaminophen Exposure is something I became aware of as a potential real culprit in understanding the temporal relationship between pediatric vaccinations and autism increase about 7 years ago. And then, I saw a graph of pediatric aspirin use, the switch to acetaminophen, and the acetaminophen tampering scares. In behavioral science, the graph shows an “accidental” reversal design, wherein the introduction of acetaminophen instead of aspirin for children increased autism cases and the tampering scares shutting down acetaminophen use caused a leveling off of autism cases.
In their paper, Parker and colleagues put all the mechanisms together—weaving a logical and coherent explanation of the autism epidemic. More importantly, we can almost certainly prevent many cases of autism by withdrawing almost all use of acetaminophen for pediatric patients, especially because there are other options with less risk. Their paper describes how a study might be conducted to clarify this further. In the meantime, most pediatric uses of acetaminophen are unnecessary and contraindicated, like giving a dose before shots or low-grade fevers.
This finding raises a false-flag of blaming parents for autism, which some may be prone to do. That is not the case here. We cannot undo the past causes of autism, but we do have sound scientific for avoiding the use of acetaminophen/paracetamol among children, and probably prenatally to reduce the risk of autism spectrum disorders for hundreds of thousands of children. That is good news for children, their families and schools.
1. Parker W, Hornik CD, Bilbo S, Holzknecht ZE, Gentry L, Rao R, Lin SS, Herbert MR, Nevison CD: The role of oxidative stress, inflammation and acetaminophen exposure from birth to early childhood in the induction of autism. The Journal of International Medical Research 2017, 45(2):407-438.
2. Good P: Did acetaminophen provoke the autism epidemic? Altern Med Rev 2009, 14(4):364-372.
Dennis Embry, President/Senior Scientist at PAXIS Institute – Dennis D. Embry is a prominent prevention scientist in the United States and Canada, trained as clinician and developmental and child psychologist. He is president/senior scientist at PAXIS Institute in Tucson, Arizona. Dennis Embry serves on the scientific advisory board for the Children’s Mental Health Network, the board of the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, and the National Advisory Council of the U.S. Center for Mental Health Advisory Council.