Autism Caused By Chemical Exposure? ‘Science Junkie’ With Two Autistic Children Claims Pregnancy Hormones Damaged Her Eggs
Jill Escher is stumped on why she has two children with autism. A self-described "autism science junkie," Escher scoured through numerous research materials to know more about the developmental condition and now, she has a theory about what might lead developing fetuses into autism.
Escher's theory goes back to the early days of her conception, Spectrum News reported. According to Escher, her mother took six hormones in 1965 while she was pregnant with her to avoid miscarriage. Those hormones included synthetic corticosteroids, progestins, and estrogens, and was taken by her mother in the first seven months of her pregnancy.
Escher posts that the hormones her mother took didn't appear to have damaged her when she was born, but it negatively affected the DNA in her eggs. Decades later, Escher was the one to give birth and her damaged eggs due to her mother's intake of hormones which she believes played a role in her children's autism diagnoses.
Autism Experts Speak Up About Escher's Theory
Both of Escher's children, Jonny and Sophie, were diagnosed with autism when they were very young. Now 17 and 10, respectively, the siblings don't speak and did not display the intellectual abilities of toddlers when they were younger.
Escher said that both of her pregnancies were ordinary and had no complications. Escher and her husband's families don't have histories of autism and other developmental or psychiatric disorders.
Autism researchers said Escher's idea shouldn't be ignored, and studies should be conducted to test her hypothesis. Reproductive and developmental biologists that Escher contacted said they don't know of any studies that examined the effects of hormones on developing eggs or sperm. They told Escher however about a research that studied how hormone-like chemicals such as pesticides and plasticizers affected rodents' germ cells.
Germ cells can be affected by food that a pregnant woman eats as well. These germ cells could merge with egg cells and sperm, and may be part of a fetus' DNA later on.
Some experts, however, are doubtful that chemicals affect germ cells that much. Lisa Chadwick, a health scientist administrator at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in North Carolina, said germ cells being exposed to chemicals don't necessarily mean that it would sustain serious damages like high autism risk.
Mark Zylka, an associate professor of cell biology and physiology at the University of North Carolina, said it's possible that chemicals cause mutations in the germ cells. However, the odds of those mutations specifically hitting and damaging an autism gene are low.
Around 3 million people in the U.S. are in the autism spectrum disorder, Autism Speaks noted. The condition is four to five times more common in boys than girls.