Autistic Traits Associated with Phthalate Exposures at Susceptible Developmental Times

August 16, 2021

Boys Showed a Stronger Link Between Exposures and Autism Symptoms Than Girls

A new South Korean study has concluded that there are susceptible developmental periods of time that phthalate exposure can be linked with autistic traits. Specifically, the study’s authors found that exposure to phthalates during pregnancy is associated with autistic traits in young children and exposure to phthalates in young childhood leads to autistic traits in school-aged children. These findings were especially evident in boys.  Phthalates are synthetic chemicals with endocrine-disrupting properties. They are ubiquitous in our modern environment and found in cosmetics, personal care products, food packaging, medical devices and toys. This new study, published in Environmental International, involved measuring five different phthalate metabolites: MEHHP, MEOHP, MnBP, MECPP, and MBzP. These chemicals were measured during mid-term pregnancy and at children’s checkups at ages 4, 6, and 8 years. A total of 547 mother-child pairs were included in this research. To assess autistic traits, the team used the Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) at each time point check-up. The relationship between measurements of phthalate metabolites and SCQ scores was analyzed by exposure window and sex. This study’s conclusion backs up another recent study which found that certain environmental exposures were detrimental at different vulnerable periods of development. Additionally, a recent study from UMass Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences also showed that exposure to phthalates during pregnancy is associated with autism traits and recommended taking daily doses of folic acid during pregnancy to mitigate damage from these synthetic compounds. 

Original Study

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