Winter inversion air pollution gets a lot of attention in Utah, deservedly so. Unfortunately, "spring air pollution" gets very little attention but deserves much more. I'm not talking about PM2.5, I'm talking about what the state, farmers, landscapers and gardeners spray into the air in a misguided obsession with insects and weeds. The collateral damage goes far beyond pests.
Last month, leading scientists warned of a "silent pandemic," citing strong evidence that "children worldwide are being exposed to unrecognized toxic chemicals that are silently eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviors, truncating future achievements and damaging societies." These toxins heavy metals, fluoride, chemicals like PCBs, toluene, solvents, flame retardants, BPA, phalates and especially pesticides are found in the air you breathe, the food you eat, the water you drink, and the grass your kids play soccer on. With national rates of autism continuing to climb dramatically, another 30 percent just since the last survey of two years ago, with Utah having by far the highest rates of autism in the country, this "silent pandemic" warning should be a real wake up call.
More research on autism was published last month in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. Brain autopsies of autistic children who had died from unrelated causes, compared to those of normal children, demonstrated abnormal patches of disorganized neurons disrupting the usual distinct layers in the brain's cortex. The abnormalities almost certainly occurred in utero during key developmental windows before 30 weeks gestation.