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    Autism and its Environmental Influences

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    Autism is a severe developmental disability that typically occurs during the first three years of life and is the result of a developmental impairment that affects the normal functioning of the brain, affecting social interaction and interpersonal skills. Children and adults with autism typically struggle with verbal and non-social interactions, and recreational or entertainment activities. Autism is one of five disorders in the Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) community, described as ‘severe and all-impairment in many areas of development. (Scientists, 2020).

    Prevalence rates were estimated to be roughly 1 in 54 children living with autism spectrum disorder according to CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disability Monitoring (ADDM) network statistics. In children, Autism is four times more likely to be prevalent in boys than girls. Autism is identified in all racial, cultural, and socio-categories. Autism was diagnosed with a developmental disability by parents for approximately 1 in 6 (17%) children aged 3-years during a study period 2009.

    It included Autism, attention-deficit / hyperactivity, blindness, and brain paralysis. (CDC, 2020). Autism is not apparent, but abnormalities in the brain or behavior are commonly known. During Brain scans, the brain’s structure and function differ from neuro-typical children with Autism. Scholars study several theories, including the relationship between heredity, genetics, and medical problem. However, it is widely proved that Autism is caused by mixing environmental factors, including pollutants, chemical use, food preservatives, and pesticides.

    Environmental exposure may fall into different categories. There are environmental threats, including allergens, and pollutants such as particulates. Smoking is the most apparent event. Pregnant women are recommended not to smoke due to high chemical carcinogens harmful to the fetus.

    Most pregnant women may not smoke but are vulnerable to several other things, and I don’t think we know all of the stuff. Exposure is very complicated because if you go from one place to another, some are chemical, some are fungal. Most areas are more pesticides-fuelled. To fully understand this, we will establish precise exposures in vulnerable areas.

    Neurodevelopmental conditions have risen astonishingly in the U.S. and around the world, said Mamta Behl, Ph.D., National Toxicology Program (NTP), in her keynote speech, ‘We’re asking NTP what might be environmental causes’ she cited evidence that conditions like ADHD and autism spectrum disorder are progressively prevalent. She also worked in industrial and commercial agricultural products, including pesticides and fire-retardants. ‘The environment is still untested in thousands of chemicals,’ she notes. ‘There’s a question we’re exposing pregnant children and mothers.’ (Saffron, 2020)

    Autism and Air Pollutants

    Some may have autism or related disabilities to explain the disorder’s history. Although no gene causes Autism, scientists agree that autism children inherit abnormal genetic code fragments. Many children were also born with autism susceptibility, but scientists still haven’t found a definite ’cause’ for Autism.

    Due to environmental factors such as respiratory infections, metabolism, and exposure to environmentally friendly chemicals during pregnancy or birth, the ability to interfere with brain development can still be adequately explored. Research proves that some of our current environmental factors, such as pollutants (i.e., heavy metals such as mercury), contribute to increased ASD incidence.

    ASD patients can impair their ability to metabolize and detoxify these toxins. There was extensive research done by, Department of Public Health and Sciences by the University of California. The research called ‘MARBLES’ Markers of Autism Risk In Babies – is a maternal child’s retrospective study for people with an autism spectrum disorder. (‘MARBLES Home,’ 2020) MARBLES research, initiated in 2006, explores potential biological and environmental prenatal and post-partum exposures and autism threats. The research involves exposure to chemicals, pesticides, and environmental contaminants that affect immune and nervous systems, medications, or behaviors.

    The significant potential signs or causes under study are impaired medication or lifestyle factors, immune system function, metabolism, behavioral markers. MARBLES monitor mothers before, during, and after birth, so that we can collect information about their prenatal and postnatal environment. Through gathering data in real-time, the reliability of data collected is strengthened, and biological and behavioral changes in mother and baby during pregnancy and early childhood are better understood and observed. (‘MARBLES Home,’ 2020)

    The data on each participant’s nature and the environment is collected from different sources, including blood, urine, hair, saliva, breast milk, and home dust tests, to provide a comprehensive image of each pregnancy environment. Documentation is also gathered through parent interviews using standardized questionnaires and access to medical records to determine information about specific behavioral causes or behaviors that can contribute to Autism. (‘MARBLES Home,’ 2020)

    Autism and Preliminary Data from Marbles Study

    There were few ASD environmental studies to assess early-life exposure. MARBLES work adds extensive pregnancy data and specimen selection to this gap, achieving high retention in a diverse ethnic group.

    The latest identified risks for large samples of children diagnosed with ASD are family recurrence risk of 24%. Such sample strengths are extensive surveys (thousands to millions and hundreds to tens of thousands of ASD people) and comprehensive population enumeration. Several other conditions and probable confusers (smoking, diet, medical reasons, etc.), however, lack minimal or incomplete data, and comprehensive diagnostic tests are not available.

    During the 2005 study, few environmental factors for Autism or related disorders were identified. It indicates there is possibly different research suggests that inherited conditions are linked to the altered risks of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), primarily prenatal-age. The dangers of prenatal exposure-related ASD or sources of air pollution resulted from well-conducted epidemiology studies on several environmental samples with inadequate control over group-level confusers.

    CHARGE research has shown a decrease in ASD associated with maternally prenatal vitamin peri-conception supplementations and an increased risk associated with residential proximity to agricultural pesticides or traffic-related and national parental air pollution. CHARGE has also established dysregulation of immune systems. (Picciotto et al., 2018, pp. 1–3)

    Several studies now rely on the hypothesis of early and extensive brain development, where the critical balance between growth and phasing seems to be confused. In this recent article about how the environment plays a role in pregnancy, and it talks about the environment plays a significant role when the mother is pregnant, and the baby is in the womb.

    ‘Increasing pieces of evidence, especially from extensive twin studies, shows that the uterine environment has an essential impact on development and that the mother’s health can profoundly influence the long-term mental and physical health of the developing embryo or fetus. Through this context, ASD may be considered, at least in some situations, a fetal development condition.

    As we are more aware that certain environmental factors have their impact, particularly during the prenatal period – a critical phase of life – there is a need to determine better how genetics interact with the womb environment. When considering the substantial heterogeneity of ASD phenotypes, the interplay of genetic, environmental, and uterine environmental influences is very probable. (Leonardo Emberti Gialloreti & Paolo Curatolo, 2018, pp. 1–3)

    Autism and Chemical Exposures

    We are concerned with toxic chemicals as we consider environmental risk factors. For example, preterm birth at low birth weight is an ‘environmental’ risk factor for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) beyond inherited genes in terms of the environment. Low birth weight is also caused by unavoidable exposure. The general risk to future health is toxic contaminants during pregnancy or early childhood. High lead exposure has been shown to affect low I.Q. values in language and affect motor performance.

    To reduce exposure, avoid eating non-food products and occupations or behaviors that could require plumbing exposure, including repairs and renovations in pre-1978 houses (clay, dirt, pottery, or paint chips). Pregnant mothers should avoid overseas beauty products, food additives, and drugs. Chemical exposure can result from fish ingestion, and expectant mothers should avoid direct contact with quicksilver and some skin-lit creams.

    According to a journal study published in November 2012 Prev Med Public Health magazine, ‘A person who absorbs mercury from food consumption shows triggering signs and symptoms such as ataxia, speech impairment, limited visual fields, sensory disturbances, deafness, blindness, tremors, involuntary movement, changes in memory, coma, and death. Children with infected mothers developed mental retardation, Autism, peripheral neuropathy, cerebral palsy, and blindness.’ (Hong, Kim, & Lee, 2012)

    Tobacco use remains common, as over 13% of women who smoked cigarettes during pregnancy reported adverse health effects. Many more children stay with a smoking parent around 1999 and 2006. Direct smoke and second-hand smoke are complex mixtures, including nicotine, organic compounds, and metals such as cadmium and plum, overlapping tobacco smoking with several chemical groups listed later in this article.

    It is increasingly evident that a smoker’s chemical smoke inhalation (directly) versus a non-smoker (second-hand smoke) differs considerably with different toxic loads, with various possible effects on neurodevelopment(Kalkbrenner,& Penlesky, 2016. Many metals, including arsenic, fluoride, and manganese, are also considered harmful to human neurodevelopment. These health effects are not limited to elevated concentrations, but have been reported at typical exposure levels, leading to ‘silent toxicity.’

    Metals cross placenta and blood/brain barriers build up in the brain, and interact with a variety of processes, including cooperating with primary cell receptors that contribute to reactive oxygen. Nonetheless, large amounts of chemicals not yet studied are frequently found in humans and provide animal or software proof of endocrine, immune, epigenetic, and other autism-causing pathophysiology.(Kalkbrenner & Penlesky, 2016).

    Other Adverse Exposures Side Effects Linked to Chemical Exposures

    Lead – The Lead would lower children’s I.Q’s, and it would be a potent neurotoxin. By limiting exposure to lead by urging experts to remove old paint from home (it’s not a DIY job), and avoiding fake goods in leather, however, doing so research shows that high levels can contaminate vinyl and PVC.

    Mercury – Mercury pollution is another heavy metal that can interfere with healthy brain development, usually caused by energy-burning fossil fuels. People experience most mercury exposure, particularly Ahi tuna, swordfish, and roughy orange, consuming polluted fish.

    Hormone Disruptors – Individuals can have a lifetime of trouble with hormone-disrupting medications or even small doses of hormone-disrupting chemicals — from low I.Q.’s, slow growth, aggression, and social issues. Chemical hormones are present in items such as vinyl shower tapes, perfume, lipstick, soup canisters, and plastic food containers.

    Tailpipe exhaust – Recent studies relate to air pollution from car exhaust to memory, brain damage, and increased autism risk. Do not drive during rush hour and limit the amount you drive.

    Flame Retardants – When doing mental and physical developmental tests, children arriving in their bodies with higher concentrations of flame retardants scoring are less likely. Exposure can be minimized by avoiding drinks (like soda) on the list of brominated vegetable oils or BVOs ingredients.

    Nonstick Chemicals – A few 2011 reports have raised concerns that non-stick chemicals increase children’s risk of ADHD, Autism, and pulse and are not as healthy for adults as they contribute to high cholesterol. By switching cookware to US-made cast iron or untreated stainless steel when cooked and avoiding stain-flaking procedures that often include perfluorinated compounds.

    Autism and Pesticides

    Genetics has a role, but it needs more knowledge about environmental factors that function in early growth, with heritability estimates of 38 percent to 83 percent. Prenatal exposure to various pesticides is associated with neurodevelopment damage. It may have contributed to an increased risk of organophosphates and organochlorines found in the few studies of autism spectrum disorders. (Park, 2020) In vivo and in vitro laboratory, Autism studies have shown that it altered neuroprotein, changed gene expression, and neurobehavioral problems following exposure to certain chemicals.

    For example, male offspring showed delayed motor function maturation and enhanced behaviors associated with autism spectrum disorder when organophosphate chlorpyrifos was administered prenatally at subtoxic levels in a mouse model with several behavioral traits similar to the autism spectrum. To date, there is little research on real-world exposure to pesticides and the likelihood of autism spectrum disorder.

    The comprehensive population-based study analyzes prenatal and infant exposure to high-use pesticides, a priori selected for their potential neurodevelopmental toxicity based on previous proof. The uses of these pesticides were documented in California State Pesticide Use Monitoring (CA-PUR) in an agricultural-intensive region of California, USA. These records were implemented into an image analysis system network that links exposure records to addresses from birth registers of survey populations. (Ondine S von Ehrenstein, 2019, pp. 1–3)

    Interactions Between an Autism Diagnosis and Pesticide Exposures

    In all autisms, the odds ratios of pregnancy exposures to most substances were raised in combination with developmental-specific exposures (three months before birth, during birth, and for the first year of life). Pesticides were correlated with the first year of exposure to bifenthrin, malathion, and glyphosates, and most ratios were below one. (Park, 2020)

    Coadjustment for vulnerabilities in all three phases led to modulated effect estimates for autism spectrum disorder with intellectual disabilities during and before birth, and odds ratios were more pronounced for first-year exposures, particularly diazinon-, malathion-, and bifenthrin for pesticide exposure. The sensitivity to pregnancy (indicating sensitivity just before or after conception) was lower than in pregnancy or first year of life following exposure period adapting to Autism as a result of exposure disorder. (Ondine S von Ehrenstein, 2019, pp. 1–3)

    Results indicate that autism spectrum disorders increase the risk of prenatal and infant exposure to many specific atmospheric pesticides found by test samples. Interpretation and combined clinical and toxicological approaches should be further investigated to understand the mechanisms underlying the disease. Our reports, however, support the need to limit prenatal and infant exposure to pesticides to protect early brain development from public health and preventive medicine. (Ondine S von Ehrenstein, 2019, pp. 1–3)

    The ‘WHO’ has approved DDT (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) for indoor use. DDT is a chemical that repels and kills mosquitoes and can reduce death levels in malaria-affected areas such as Africa, Asia, and other countries. However, the opposing side of DDT, the Pesticide Action Network North America, argues that it may cause health problems in children.

    The side effects include premature birth, development delay, and Autism. Early forms of DDT also had an impact on the environment, including the thinning of bird eggshells and population decline in certain species. The NIEHS grantors and Lead Author Alan Brown, M.D., is Columbia Medical Center, and New York State Psychiatric Institute indicated that pregnant women with elevated levels of DDE, an insecticide DDT metabolite in the blood, are more likely to have children with Autism.

    On the other hand, they found no link between a mother’s exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and their children’s autism development. To better understand direct exposure, Alan Brown has used Finnish women’s biological database since 1983 to collect and store blood serum samples from pregnant women to understand direct exposure better.

    Brown and a group of Finnish researchers compared infant health reports with a retrospective study of blood serum samples over one million mothers who gave birth from 1987 to 2005. They discovered about 1300 children diagnosed with Autism and compared 778 of them and their mothers to 778 autism-free child-mom-paired pairings, each carefully matching place and date of birth, sex, and residence. Brown’s team found no connection between PCB by-product and Autism.

    However, measuring blood by-products DDT levels shows that mothers with elevated concentrations in the top quartile are 32% more likely to bear Autism than women with lower DDT rates. Among mothers with elevated DDT levels, there was a possibility that a child with Autism and intellectual disability was twice as high compared to lower-level parents. Rodent research has shown that certain chemicals that bind androgen receptors can interfere with fetal brain growth, particularly in boys most likely to have Autism. (Scruggs, 2018).


    In conclusion, though environmental, ASD-related factors may include many issues such as Pesticides, phthalates, polychlorinated biphenyls, solvents, air pollutants, fragrances, pesticides, and heavy metals. Many of these toxicants are the most common cosmetic ingredients we may use in our daily lives.

    However, the exact diagnosis is based on analyzing the individual’s speech, behavior, and developmental stage. However, since certain autism-based practices may be classified as other conditions, further diagnostic testing may be needed to exclude or sort specific possible triggers. Those with Autism appear to have behavioral disorders, learning disabilities, hearing issues, or at first unusual violent behaviors. Such disorders coexist with Autism to confuse matters further.

    Nevertheless, distinguishing between Autism and other conditions is crucial because accurate diagnosis and early identification can form the basis for an effective and efficient education and treatment program. A specific description of a person’s abilities and actions cannot pose a brief observation in one context. Parental input and development history is critical for diagnostic accuracy.


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    Autism and its Environmental Influences. (2021, Sep 16). Retrieved from

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