Article on Autism in New Scientist cites paroxonase enzyme/gene

November 30th, 2005

To the Editor,

I spent 23 years working with autistic children and their families in New York City, prior to my becoming brain injured and permanently disabled from pesticide poisoning at the age of 45. I witnessed the tragic transition of this formerly rare syndrome into a commonly encountered form of developmental disorder with a wide range of functional profiles per individual.

Frequently ill throughout my career, it was not until I became disabled that I studied the research on the enzyme noted in this article regarding paroxonase. My symptoms were well described in the Gulf War Syndrome studies and paroxonase deficiencies along with pesticide exposures, were among the common denominators presented by its victims. This enzyme, intended by nature to promote cardiac health, is also vital to the detoxification of certain pesticides formerly ubiquitous in American homes, offices, schools, hospitals and recreational areas (in the form of herbicides). Residues on agricultural products guaranteed the presence of such chemicals as Dursban and Diazanon in most of the population.

The organophosphates (OPs) kill by hyperactivation of nerve cells through inhibition of acetylcholinesterase. That enzyme is measurably reduced in exposed persons leaving them open to multiple organ damage from as nerve fibers fire, unchecked, while the body attempts to rid itself of the poison. Of course, every individual has varying rates of success at this task. Again, few doctors ask patients about their exposures to pesticides or know that flu-like symptoms and multi-system complaints may reflect pesticide intoxication.

Dr. Clement Furlong pioneered paroxonase research at the University of Washington/Seattle Medical School. His laboratory performed the necessary blood test for me since this test is not commercially available, even if one’s doctor has ever heard of the enzyme. Like ALL infants and 15% of the adult population, I was very deficient in this important substance. Intolerant to the asthma medications prescribed for me, Dr. Furlong was not surprised since the processing and detoxification of some pharmaceuticals requires paroxonase as well. The monthly applications of organophosphate pesticides in my offices in every workplace were finally identified as the source of my recurrent distress. However, in 1999, I worked in a school in which pyrethroid insecticides were used, likely substituted for the now banned OPs. These inadequately tested chemicals disrupt the sodium ion channels of nerve cells leading again to hyperactivity and cell damage/death. No testing is submitted for pesticide registration which calculates the dosage leading to damage as opposed to death in humans (LD50 testing).

Many of the autistic children I encountered suffered from food and chemical intolerances I now experience post-poisoning. We need to acknowledge that the pesticides are applied in toxic solvents such as xylene and trimethbenzene allowing sensitization to many petrochemical substances. The supposition that parents/siblings of autistic children suffer from central nervous system abnormalities speaks to the environmental factors shared by those individuals as well as the genetic. Nearly all apartments in NYC are sprayed regularly and these chemicals degrade very slowly in the absence of sunlight, as well as migrating into neighboring rooms/units where residents do not expect to encounter them. Most persons lack any knowledge of their exposure histories.

Dr. Abou-Donia of Duke University demonstrated how pesticides can cross the blood brain barrier far more easily in combinations of chemicals and when individuals are undergoing physiological stressors. This describes most of our population.

We must begin requiring the testing of chemicals for the exposure amounts leading to damage, not just death as in the current LD50 testing performed. The use of any chemicals which manipulate the central nervous systems of living organisms has no place among humans. The popularity of the pyrethroids is likely due to the greater difficulty of diagnosing intoxication since OPs are easily traced.

The proofs can be observed in increased health of the population rather than by decades of calculating correlations between our increasingly ill citizens and their poorly recorded exposure histories. Then industry is asked to withdraw their product from the market (aka Dursban) and the next poison comes along to repeat this pattern.

Categories: NY Times

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  1. agasaya


    Dr. Furlong’s lab used to run these tests for the public at a sizable fee but I know of no one doing it commercially. It is very possible he sold the rights to the process to a lab or has other reccommendations for you. Certainly it is useful to pursue but there is relatively little practical application for the results. You may be better off checking for liver damage directly, running sulfur mechanism integrity since a high homocysteine level is due to sufur transferase problems (gene mutations are easily checked for this kind of problem through regular doctors) and cholinesterase testing for OP exposure is definitive. Let me know if you require further info on this. Also, environmental testing for OP residues in and around your family is essential to limit continuing damage. If you carried old furniture with you from old places to new, you can be taking the hazards with you. Test.
    Take care,

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