Can Exposure to Cooking Oil Fumes in Pregnancy Be Linked to Autism-Like Behaviors in Preschool Children?

June 27, 2022

New Research from China Suggests It Can

A team of Chinese researchers found that maternal cooking oil fumes (COF) exposure during pregnancy was associated with the presence of autism-like behaviors in their offspring by the time they reach preschool. The authors also discovered that the association depended on a dose-response relationship between the frequency of cooking and amounts of COFs exposure and the likelihood of offspring’s autism-like behaviors. Furthermore, the researchers observed that pregnant mothers who cooked using natural gas or used an exhaust hood as a ventilation agent could mitigate the risk of autism-like behaviors in their offspring. While the study did not identify the potential mechanisms by which COFs could impair neurodevelopment in children, it points out that COFs consist of over 100 types of hazardous compounds such as particulate matter (PM), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), nitrogen oxides (NO), and volatile organic compounds (VOC), all of which have been previously linked to adverse impacts on neurodevelopment. By relying on earlier research, the study puts forward a theory that could explain the damage by COF.  The authors suggest that maternal exposure to PM and PAH during pregnancy through inhalation of COFs can enter the fetus via the placenta barrier. These substances then enter the central nervous system through the olfactory bulb or via the blood-brain barrier (BBB). When arriving at the brain, these hazardous substances can cause the release of proinflammatory mediators (e.g., interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor), leading to chronic respiratory and systemic inflammation which injure the BBB and finally trigger neural-immune interactions and produce numerous reactive oxygen species (ROS), and chronic oxidative stress contributing to neuronal dysfunction. The enormous ROS can damage the BBB and change the permeability of the barrier, which can interfere with neurodevelopment. Making matters worse, the developing fetus lacks the immune response function and the ability to detoxify hazardous substances, making the embryo especially susceptible to the toxicity of air pollution. The authors conclude their work by calling for more research to examine the mechanisms explaining the associations found in their study. They also recommend that pregnant women should avoid cooking using solid fuels (e.g., wood or coal) or use ventilation measures when they cook to decrease the risk of adverse neurobehavioral outcomes in their offspring. 

Original Study

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons