Chemicals Found in Everyday Household Products Linked to Autism, Multiple Sclerosis – Study

Chemicals Found in Everyday Household Products Linked to Autism, Multiple Sclerosis - Study
Chemicals Found in Everyday Household Products Linked to Autism, Multiple Sclerosis - Study

Africa-Press – Namibia. Over 1.8 million people are estimated to suffer from multiple sclerosis (MS) worldwide, affecting their cognitive function, emotional, motor, sensory and visual areas after their immune system attacks their brain and spinal cord, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to a new study, two chemicals found in common household products like cleaning products, hair products and furniture could be playing a role in the development of neurological disorders like autism and multiple sclerosis.

And because only a fraction of neurological problems can be attributed to genetics alone, it is believed that unknown environmental factors play a major role in these health issues.

The study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience on Tuesday, found that some common household chemicals can specifically affect the brain’s oligodendrocytes, which is a specialized cell type that creates a protective insulation around nerve cells.

A team of researchers from the Case Western Reserve University of Medicine examined over 1,800 common household chemicals and identified two that selectively damaged oligodendrocytes. The chemicals belong to two classes: organophosphate flame retardants and quaternary ammonium compounds (quats or QACs).

“Loss of oligodendrocytes underlies multiple sclerosis and other neurological diseases,” said Paul Tesar, the study’s lead author. “We now show that specific chemicals in consumer products can directly harm oligodendrocytes, representing a previously unrecognized risk factor for neurological disease.”

According to the research, quats cause oligodendrocytes (brain cells that create the nerve cells protective layer) to die, while organophosphate flame retardants prevent them from maturing.

Quats are often found in products like body washes, fabric softeners, shampoos, sunscreens, baby wipes, shaving creams and disinfectants like Clorox and Downy products.

Organophosphate flame retardants are found in electronic devices, building materials and furniture made with flame retardant foam and plastic, according to the Green Science Policy Institute. The institute also found that products with flame retardants will burn similarly to those without the chemical, making their use seem more harmful than relevant.

“Flame retardants continually migrate out of furniture and into indoor dust which is ingested by people and pets. Some of these chemicals are associated with lowered IQ in children, cancer, hormone disruption, and other health problems,” the institute writes.

Research found that when oligodendrocytes production is disrupted, it can cause neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis and autism. According to Tesar, the researchers have managed to uncover a “previously unrecognized risk factor for neurological disease”.

The WHO found that one in 100 children worldwide have been diagnosed with autism.

“We hope our work will contribute to informed decisions regarding regulatory measures or behavioral interventions to minimize chemical exposure and protect human health,” Tesar said in a statement.

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