A public announcement from Autism Speaks provides information about the signs of autism. (Ad Council for Autism Speaks / TNS)
Pediatricians and families are encouraged to think twice before doing a handful of clinical tests for children with autism and other disabilities.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the tests can do more harm than good.
In particular, the Association for Pediatricians across the country says there is no need to test the urine of children with autistic behavior for metals and minerals, or to test the hair for “environmental toxins” in children with behavioral or developmental disorders, including autism.
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The council is part of a broader initiative called Choosing Wisely that promotes evidence-based health care that is really needed and that is free from duplication and harm. The most recent recommendations on children and environmental health were compiled by the Environmental Health Council of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In addition to suggestions regarding people with autism and other developmental disorders, Pediatrics said that urinalysis using “chelation challenge” should not be done in children with suspected lead poisoning, and mold sensitivity tests should only be done in children with clear allergy or symptoms.
And the recommendations suggest that, in most cases, pediatricians shouldn’t use measurements of environmental chemicals in blood or urine to make clinical decisions.
“We come into daily contact with chemicals contained in our food, air, water, soil, dust or the products we use. Not all of these are bad or worrying, and ultimately, stricter regulatory practices are most important in minimizing our exposure to harmful chemicals, ”said Dr. Aparna Bole, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health. “Tests or treatments that claim to diagnose childhood illnesses based on chemical measurements can be misleading or based on a false premise. Pediatricians can help address parents’ concerns about exposure to chemicals, and we encourage parents to speak to their pediatricians before doing any of these tests. “