Autism in young boys linked to phthalate exposure before birth

Autism in young boys linked to phthalate exposure before birth

Autism diagnosis test is less reliable than previously assumed, study finds The SRS-2 is a valid and accurate method of evaluating autistic traits both in general and the clinical setting. It is a questionnaire that is answered by parents. Its results agree well with the clinical tools used by doctors to diagnose ASD. However, it may not do as well when it comes to distinguishing ASD from other disorders of behavior. The findings The researchers found that urinary levels of phthalate and its metabolites were associated with higher SRS-2 scores. However, this was not seen in children whose mothers took an adequate dose of folic acid, namely, 400 mcg, every day in their first trimester. Oulhote says, “This is one of the largest cohort studies about phthalates and neurodevelopment.” He suggests that folic acid supplementation might be effective in inhibiting the effects of other toxins as well, such as air pollutants and pesticides. There have been indications that phthalate exposure impairs male reproductive development in humans. Earlier studies have also suggested a link between phthalate exposure and thyroid impairment, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and ASD. Oulhote points out the demographic characteristics of the study participants; namely, they were mostly white, employed, living with a husband or partner, and educated. Thus, lower phthalate exposures were to be expected compared to low-income communities. This is because phthalate-free personal care products are more costly, hence out of reach for the latter segment of society. Phthalates are also widely distributed among certain plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) flooring, vinyl tiles, shower curtains, toys, food packaging materials, and medical devices. Thus, their impact could be expected to be nearly universal. However, the study throws up some questions. For one, the incidence of ASD is four times higher in boys than in girls. Moreover, the current study examined children at only one point in their development. Thus, co-researcher Gina Muckle says, “We do not know if these subtle effects associated with prenatal phthalate exposure will last after the preschool period.” Journal reference: Youssef Oulhote, Bruce Lanphear, Joseph M. Braun, Glenys M. Webster, Tye E. Arbuckle, Taylor Etzel, Nadine Forget-Dubois, Jean R. Seguin, Maryse F. Bouchard, Amanda MacFarlane, Emmanuel Ouellet, William Fraser and Gina Muckle 2020 Gestational Exposures to Phthalates and Folic Acid, and Autistic Traits in Canadian Children Environmental Health Perspectives 128:2 CID: 027004 https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP5621



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