Recently, researchers have begun to demonstrate that the exposure of past generations to toxins are affecting current generations. According to the article ” Today’s Environment Influences Behavior Generations Later: Chemical Exposure Raises Descendants’ Sensitivity to Stress” ScienceDaily (2012)[i], researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Washington State University have seen an increased reaction to stress in animals whose ancestors were exposed to an environmental compound generations earlier:
” The researchers — David Crews at Texas, Michael Skinner at Washington State and colleagues — exposed gestating female rats to vinclozolin, a popular fruit and vegetable fungicide known to disrupt hormones and have effects across generations of animals. The researchers then put the rats’ third generation of offspring through a variety of behavioral tests and found they were more anxious, more sensitive to stress, and had greater activity in stress-related regions of the brain than descendants of unexposed rats.
We are now in the third human generation since the start of the chemical revolution, since humans have been exposed to these kinds of toxins,” says Crews. “This is the animal model of that.”
“The ancestral exposure of your great grandmother alters your brain development to then respond to stress differently,” says Skinner. “We did not know a stress response could be programmed by your ancestors’ environmental exposures.” (…) “So how well you socialize or how your anxiety levels respond to stress may be as much your ancestral epigenetic inheritance as your individual early-life events.”[ii]
These findings create a direct relationship between our molecular system and our mental states but also with our environment:
“There is no doubt that we have been seeing real increases in mental disorders like autism and bipolar disorder,” says Crews, who focused on the neuroscience, behavior and stress aspects of the paper. “It’s more than just a change in diagnostics. The question is why? Is it because we are living in a more frantic world, or because we are living in a more frantic world and are responding to that in a different way because we have been exposed? I favor the latter.”[iii]
According to a recent study by Amy J. Houtrow, MD, PhD, MPH, chief of the Division of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, more children today have a “disability” than a decade ago. While neurodevelopmental and mental health-related disabilities increased, those due to physical conditions decreased. This trend was most notable among children under 6 years of age whose rate of neurodevelopmental disabilities nearly doubled over the study period from 19 cases to 36 cases per 1,000 children. (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2013).[iv] This suggests to me that as time moves on and our bodies become more toxic, out children will continue to increasingly show signs of toxicity, unless we begin to consciously reverse this process. Besides these chemical and genetic influences, other elements in our environment affect our children. Space, technology and people can create overwhelming sensory experiences for HSPs.
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[i] David Crews, Ross Gillette, Samuel V. Scarpino, Mohan Manikkam, Marina I. Savenkova, and Michael K. Skinner. Epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of altered stress responses. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, May 21, 2012
[ii] Washington State University. “Today’s environment influences behavior generations later: Chemical exposure raises descendants’ sensitivity to stress.” ScienceDaily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120521163853.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).
[iii] Washington State University. “Today’s environment influences behavior generations later: Chemical exposure raises descendants’ sensitivity to stress.” ScienceDaily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120521163853.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).
[iv] American Academy of Pediatrics. “Childhood Disability Rate Jumps 16% Over Past Decade”. American Academy of Pediatrics. May 5, 2013. http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/Childhood-Disability-Rate-Jumps.aspx#sthash.BE4Xk7OX.dpuf