In the May edition of the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) Kellyn S. Betts, science journalist for EHP and Environmental Science & Technology, commented on a new study investigating links between endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), including food contact substances, and autism (Braun et al. 2014). Betts argues in the article that men are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than women, hinting at hormonal involvement in the neurological disease development of autism. Neurodevelopment is influenced by hormones in an important manner and may thus be susceptible to environmental interferences. Joseph Braun, study author and epidemiologist at Brown University School of Public Health, U.S., is cited in the article stating that EDCs are suspected to influence the genes of a fetus prenatally or early in life. The new study was based on levels of 52 EDCs in blood and urine samples of 175 pregnant women from the U.S. Health Outcomes and Measures of the Environment (HOME) study cohort. Higher exposures to trans-nonachlor and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE)-28 were associated with higher average scores in a behavior test used to assess autism spectrum disorders in children aged 4 and 5 years. β-Hexachlorocyclohexane, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-178, PBDE-85a and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a compound used to make non-stick coatings in food contact materials (FCM), were associated with a lower score in the behavior test. Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), applauded the new study’s multi-chemical and multi-outcome approach which he claimed to be representative of real life scenarios. However, he cautioned that in the study persistent substances may erroneously appear more important than degradable substances, as exposure to them can be measured with more precision. Philip Landrigan, professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, U.S. contends that the study provides a systematic search for environmental causes of autism.
Kellyn S. Betts (2014). “Clues to autistic behaviors: exploring the role of endocrine disruptors.” Environmental Health Perspectives 122, 5, A 137.
Braun, J. et al. (2014). “Gestational exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals and reciprocal social, repetitive, and stereotypic behaviors in 4- and 5-year-old children: The HOME study.”Environmental Health Perspectives 122, 5, 513-520.