Environmental Symposium

Autism Redefined 2010
Lecture Schedule 
Lymphatic Therapy
Student Scholars for Autism Program
Win-Win Parenting for the Autism Spectrum Child
Lecture Schedule  
NAA Presents: The Restraint and Seclusion Prevention Symposium
Homeopathy & Homotoxicology and Their Role in Reversing Vaccine Injury
Dynamics of Healthful Diet
Autism, the Brain, Thinking, & Behavior
Autism and Sexuality: A Conversation with Parents
The American Rally for Personal Rights
Lecture Schedule
Environmental Issues & Chronic Diseases Symposium
First Responders Training
Special Education Law Day
The Art of Cooking Special Diets
Verbal Behavior Workshop
CARD Feeding Clinic
EBCALA Legal & Advocacy Training
Current State of Autism Research
Biomedical Treatments for Autism 101: An Introduction to Scientifically Based Medical Treatment Options
In Spanish: Autism 101 - Today's Biomedical Treatments
Environmental Symposium
TACA Mentor Mixer
Lecture Schedule
Prediction & Prevention Track
ARCH Medical Center Parent Q&A
PANDAS Coverage
Lecture Schedule
Jenny McCarthy Keynote Address
Seizures Track
PANDAS Coverage
Advocacy Track
Adult Services & Residential Think Tank
Dr. Savely Yurkovsky Practitioner Training

Lecture Schedule
Seizures Track
True Health Symposium: Raising a Healthy Child in a Toxic World
Workshop: Interpreting Your Yasko Test Results

AHA Heroes Training
Arts Festival
Book Signings
Elias Tembenis Mini-Walk
TACA Mentors
Generation Rescue Angels Training
Spa Night



Thursday, May 27

We Are Not Alone

  • Highlights what we share in common: how the different chronic childhood illnesses often result from exposure to the same toxins in our daily lives. 
  • Highlights the most important new science to explain how this can be so. 
  • Discusses the forces that keep both parents and decision-makers ignorant of the evidence. 
  • Begins a discussion of whether and how parents can begin to work together as a countervailing force to remove environmental toxins.      

Mary Lou Ballweg
Mary Lou Ballweg is president and executive director of the Endometriosis Association, an organization she co-founded in 1980 after being bedridden with endometriosis and related illnesses.  The non-profit organization provides support and information for families affected by endometriosis, educates the public and medical community about the disease, and promotes and conducts research.

The Endometriosis Association was the first organization in the world to address the support and education needs of women with endometriosis (endo) and to carry out ongoing research.  It maintains its international headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.A.  The Association has affiliates, members, Advisors, and funded scientific projects worldwide.

Ms. Ballweg sits on the evaluation panel of the NIH Specialized Cooperative Centers Program in Reproduction Research, is an extramural advisor on development of the NIH Reproductive Sciences Branch strategic plan, is an ad hoc reviewer for Fertility & Sterility, and has won numerous awards for her work.

Ved Chauhan, PhD
is head of the cellular neurochemistry laboratory at the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities (IBR), Staten Island, New York. Dr. Chauhan received his PhD (Biochemistry) from the Postgraduate Institute for Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, India. After working as a research associate for 2 years in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, he joined IBR as a research scientist.

Dr. Chauhan has received several research grants as PI and Co-PI from the NIH, Autism Speaks, the Autism Research Institute, the Autism Collaboration, and Cure Autism Now. He has published more than 70 research articles in peer-reviewed journals. His work includes but is not limited to phospholipid methylation, calcium traversal across bilayer, activators of protein kinase C, factors involved in the fibrillization of amyloid beta-protein, role of gelsolin in Alzheimers disease, and membrane abnormalities and cellular signaling in autism.

Dr. Chauhan is the editor of the book Autism: Oxidative stress, Inflammation, and Immune Abnormalities and associate editor of the "Special Issue on Autism Spectrum Disorders" of the American Journal of Biochemistry and Biotechnology (2008). He is also a member of the editorial board of International Archives of Medicine and associate editor of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Mark Corrales, MPP
is an environmental policy analyst with over 20 years of experience assessing the health risks and economic impacts of air pollutants and regulations designed to limit air pollution. Mr. Corrales currently serves in the US Environmental Protection Agency's policy office, where he is the lead analyst reviewing major regulations focused on transportation-related emissions, as well as ambient air quality standards. Mr. Corrales also conducts research on emerging issues including the role of environmental factors in autism, risk analysis of sensitive subgroups, and environmental policy applications of bibliometrics, bioinformatics, and probabilistic uncertainty analysis. Prior to joining the EPA, Mr. Corrales managed a high-tech startup, following several years directing an environmental policy consulting practice in Washington, DC. His graduate degree is from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and his undergraduate degree in biology is from Harvard College. His many publications and presentations include "Environmental Genomics of Autism," with Martha Herbert, chapter in Autism Research, Oxford University Press, 2009.

David Hahn-Baker
after graduating from Princeton in 1981 worked in Washington, D.C. for national environmental organizations including the National Clean Air Coalition as a field organizer, as senior lobbyist for the League of Women Voters and as political director of Friends of the Earth.

In 1989 he moved to Buffalo, NY and established his own environmental consulting firm focusing on environmental justice issues and the disproportionate impact of pollution on people of color and lower-income communities.  His clients have been environmental advocacy groups from the National Wildlife Federation to Greenpeace which, though taking a different general approach to environmental issues, need help working on the concerns of non-traditional environmentalists.  He has also worked extensively for the national foundation and grant-making community such as the James C. Penney Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Locally he is helping the Community Action Organization of Erie County, which administers the Head Start program, to organize its Environmental Justice project and the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo to establish an environmental grantmaking program.

Betty Mekdeci
Betty Mekdeci is the founder and director of Birth Defect Research for Children, a national birth defect information clearinghouse and research organization started in 1982. Betty currently serves on the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ Public Interest Group and the coordinating committee for the national Collaboration on Health and the Environment.  In 2001, the Orlando Business Journal selected Betty as one of Central Florida’s most influential business leaders for her work on behalf of Vietnam and Gulf War veteran families.  She also received the National Gulf War Resource Center’s Outreach and Education Award for excellence in reaching and educating veterans, families, the public and the government about Gulf War Syndrome.  The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine awarded her organization, its Research Innovation Award for creative and ethical research in the design and development of the National Birth Defect Registry.  Betty is married to Dr. Michael Mekdeci, Assoc. VP of Stetson University and has two children, Kristy, a high school art teacher and David who is the Assistant Director for BDRC.

Alice Shabecoff
is coauthor with her husband Philip of Poisoned for Profit, just released in paperback (first published in 2008 as Poisoned Profits: The Toxic Assault on our Children).  She is a member of the Board of Directors of Birth Defect Research for Children.  She served in the 1970s as executive director of the National Consumers League, the country’s oldest consumer organization, and in the 1980s as founder and executive director of the national nonprofit Community Information Exchange, an information service for the community development sector.  Her articles on children’s environmental health appear on numerous websites including MomsRising, HealthSentinel, Non-ToxicKids and the European Chemical Sensitivity Network.  As a freelance journalist covering consumer and children’s affairs, she has been widely published in the U.S. and overseas.


We Are Not Alone
Alice Shabecoff
9:00-9:45 am

With each generation since the mid-1940s, the rates of autism climb higher and higher.  And so do the rates of other serious illnesses, from childhood cancer to life-threatening asthma and birth defects.   By now, one out of every three American child suffers from a chronic illness.  This terrible trend started with our nation’s unremitting, unexamined foray into ‘Better Living through Chemicals’ and unregulated, intensely-polluting industrialization, including nuclear power.

Alice will provide an overview of the rates and growth of childhood illnesses over these decades, and an overview of the sources of increased pollution in our children’s daily lives that, science now shows, trigger these illnesses.  She will focus on the threats that all the childhood disorders face in common.

Today we are in the midst of a scientific revolution equal to Pasteur’s discovery of germs: Alice offer a layman’s understanding of the key discoveries of this new science.  In particular, she will discuss endocrine disruption and its connection to autism as well as other neurodevelopmental disorders.  She will discuss what science knows today about cause-and-effect, and why some children become ill while others do not.

Are there solutions to this devastating advance of disease and disability?  Alice will examine the reasons that most American parents remain in the dark about the scale of this devastation and potential danger to their children.  She will examine some of reasons that hold parents back from attacking this threat.  She will call upon the parents and researchers in this conference to forge alliances with others who are fighting for the lives of their children no matter what the illness.

The Chemical Octopus
Mary Lou Ballweg
10:00-10:45 am

Many of us are involved in dealing with various disease entities--endometriosis, birth defects, autism, ADHD, various cancers, autoimmune diseases and others.  Yet, our research over the last 30 years and other cutting edge science (which I have recently reviewed for a chapter on prevention for a new medical textbook on endometriosis) clearly show that each of these disease entities is one arm of an “octopus”--at the heart of these problems, one can see a pattern of epigenetic chemical contamination.  For instance, in families with endometriosis, we now understand that the exposure in-utero to dioxin and other chemicals has transgenerational effects (we're into the fifth generation), sometimes resulting in various birth defects (broadly defined, including autism), sometimes resulting in endometriosis, sometimes in autoimmune diseases or various cancers and for unlucky individuals, several diseases.  However, the underlying mechanisms are very similar.

We will never solve these problems if we spend the next centuries studying each disease in isolation--we simply must reach for the synergy that is possible by looking at related mechanisms as well as in-utero exposures, which set up the gene transmission regulation for the life of that organism.

Pollution and Childhood Illness
David Hahn-Baker
11:00-11:45 am

David will talk about the incidences of childhood and adult illnesses in the communities in which he has worked as an organizer and advisor.  He will describe the toxins particularly prevalent in low-income areas and in communities of color, which often face extreme pollution.  He’ll describe how children from situations of stress are especially vulnerable, and the actions the parents took to oppose the pollution of their communities.  From his work experiences, he will discuss the challenges facing activists on issues where there are disputes in the basic science.

The connection between birth defects and autism
Betty Mekdeci
1:00-1:45 pm

Over the 30 years I have been working on birth defect research, the definition of a birth defect has expanded from structural (missing pieces and parts) to faulty development of the systems that run the body (immune, endocrine, neurological).  In many children, structural and functional birth defects coexist and this suggests that the same etiological mechanisms may be at work.  It is this paradigm that has taken our organization from its beginning of linking structural birth defects to the popular morning sickness drug to Bendectin to the development of the National Birth Defect Registry.  The registry is a powerful tool that can identify linkages between structural and functional birth defects and common factors in the health, genetic and exposure histories of one or both parents.

In January, our organization, Birth Defect Research for Children, released a report on 137 cases of autistic spectrum disorders in the registry.  In 60% of our cases, structural and functional birth defects coexisted in the same children.   This could suggest several possibilities:  1) ASDs are part of a birth defect pattern and those cases without reports of associated birth defects should be evaluated for subtle physical anomalies; or 2) There are two types of ASDs….one that occurs as part of a birth defect sequence and the other that may have an origin that may be either pre or post-natal; or 3) ASDs without associated birth defects may be the result of an expanded definition of autism that includes children with severe ADHD, Sensory Integration Disorders and other neuro-developmental problems that were not previously classified as autism.

Panel Review and Discussion of Topics - Beginning to Mobilize
1:45-2:15 pm

The Search for Environmental Risk Factors in Autism
Mark Corrales, MPP
2:30-3:15 pm

The prevalence of diagnosed autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has continued to increase in recent years, along with dramatic growth in news coverage, books, and scientific articles about ASD. However, ASD still lags far behind cancer, for example, in terms of public awareness, research funding, and attention to the role of environmental factors, even relative to the prevalence and societal impacts of each disease. A small number of specific potential environmental risk factors have been examined in ASD, in hypothesis-driven studies. Discovery-based screening methods offer a complementary approach, in which hundreds or thousands of chemicals can be prioritized for closer examination, based on clues from genomics, toxicology, and the basic biology of ASD. Screening chemicals in this way suggests a modest number of pollutants that may deserve closer study, some of which have never been studied in the context of ASD.

Oxidative stress and mitochondrial abnormalities in the lymphoblasts from autistic individuals: effect of environmental agents
Ved Chauhan, PhD

We studied the status of oxidative stress in the lymphoblasts from autistic and control subjects by analyzing lipid peroxidation, activities of enzymes involved in antioxidant defense, generation of free radicals (reactive oxygen species: ROS), and extent of membrane damage. While lipid peroxidation and ROS levels were increased, the activities of superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase, and glutathione reductase were decreased in autistic lymphoblasts, which suggest increased oxidative damage coupled with impaired antioxidant defense mechanism in autism. Furthermore, membrane fluidity was decreased and lactate dehydrogenase leakage was increased in the autistic lymphoblasts compared with controls, suggesting that membrane integrity and function are affected in autism. In addition, the mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) was reduced in autistic lymphoblasts. Environmental agents such as bisphenol A, endosulfan, and thimerosal have been suggested to play a role in the etiology of autism. However, the mechanism of their action is not known. Therefore, we studied their effect on the membrane properties and MMP. Our results show that these environmental agents decrease both membrane fluidity and MMP. These results suggest that autism is associated with increased formation of free radicals coupled with decreased activities of antioxidant enzymes, which leads to increased oxidative damage, membrane damage, and mitochondrial abnormalities.

Panel Review and Discussion of Day's Topics - Avenues to Advocacy
4:00-5:30 pm