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SFU study links exposures to certain metals to autistic-like behaviours in children

BURNABY (NEWS 1130) — Environmental factors may place expectant moms at greater risk of having children with autism, according to a new study.

Researchers at SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences measured the levels of 25 chemicals in blood and urine samples collected from more than 1,800 pregnant women during their first trimester.

Three to four years later, researchers followed up with the women to conduct a social responsiveness questionnaire (SRS).

“This questionnaire gives us an idea of the number of autistic behaviours in their child when they’re three to four years old. And then basically, we did the analysis,” lead author Josh Alampi explains.

He says what they found was an increased concentrations of some of those chemicals have been linked to autistic-like behaviours.

“Some environmental chemicals like lead and phthalates and BPA (Bisphenol A) — the final two are found in plastics — seem to be associated with various aspects of brain development. It’s higher exposure to the use of these chemicals is associated with more autistic behaviours that suggest that they’re changing how brain development works,” Alampi says.

Alampi says governments would do well to review these findings.

“I’m not a policy expert. So I can’t say these chemicals should be banned or not. But that being said, some of these chemicals known as DHPS have gone under increased regulation by the Canadian government in recent years,” he says. “I think that the Canadian government should take our study in consideration, as well as various other studies which have found links between families and various aspects of neurodevelopment into consideration when they’re drafting the policy.”

The research is published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

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