PFAS Exposure in Early Childhood Linked with Increased Odds of ASD

October 17, 2022

Other Conditions Associated, Including Developmental Delay, Reduced Cognitive Ability, and Reduced Adaptive Ability

By using data from 551 children, ages 2-5 years old, in the CHildhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment (CHARGE) study, a group of researchers set out to examine if per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) were associated with increased odds of developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD), developmental delay (DD), other early concerns (OEC) or reduced cognitive and adaptive abilities. The authors used the Mullen Scales of Early Learning (MSEL) and the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales (VABS) to diagnose disorders in child participants. Participant serum samples were collected to establish PFAS body burden concentrations. After analyzing all data, childhood perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) exposure was associated with increased odds of ASD and DD. Perfluoroheptanoic acid (PFHpA), a seven-carbon version of PFOA, was linked to increased odds of ASD alone. PFOA and PFHpA were also associated with decreased scores on cognitive and adaptive functions. Another type of PFAS, perfluoro-n-pentanoic acid (PFPeA), was linked with lower adaptive function scores. Interestingly, perfluoroundecanoic acid (PFUnDA) was associated with decreased odds of ASD and DD, as well as higher scores on cognitive and adaptive abilities. A mixture of PFAS, highly weighted by PFHpA, PFPeA, and PFOA, was linked to increased odds of ASD and poorer cognitive and adaptive functions. The child’s sex determined perfluorodecanoic acid’s (PFDA) effect. Among females, increased exposure to PFDA was associated with higher odds of DD diagnosis and poorer scores, whereas males had decreased odds and better scores. This research identified an unexpected finding. Children of parents who owned homes had reduced odds of ASD diagnoses and higher skills, whereas children of non-owners had increased odds of diagnoses and poorer skills. The authors hope their findings, especially about homeownership, will lead to additional research.

Original Study

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