Environmental Causes of Autism and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Daniel Weiss, Senior Editor
Published Online: Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Follow Pharmacy_Times:
Environmental factors may contribute to up to a quarter of neurodevelopmental disorders, but more research into the role of specific substances is needed.

Genetic variables are thought to explain approximately 30% to 40% of autism cases, but more research is required to determine the role of environmental factors in causing the condition as well as other neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) such as ADHD, mental retardation, and dyslexia, according to an editorial published online on April 25, 2012, in Environmental Health Perspectives. As the editorial notes, an expert committee assembled by the US National Academy of Sciences estimated that 3% of NDDs are directly caused by exposure to toxic substances and another 25% are caused by interactions between environmental factors and inherited susceptibilities.
 
Exploration of environmental causes of NDDs has been boosted by a growing awareness of the sensitivity of the developing human brain to toxic chemicals, especially during certain periods of embryonic and fetal development. For example, studies have linked the development of autism to rubella infection or taking medications such as thalidomide, misoprostol, and valproic acid during the first trimester of pregnancy. Epidemiological studies have also linked the development of autism with prenatal exposure to the organophosphate pesticide chlorpyrifos and to phthalates. Other studies have have linked lower IQ, dyslexia, and ADHD to exposure to lead, methylmercury, organophosphate pesticides, organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, arsenic, manganese, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, bisphenol A, brominated flame retardants, and perfluorinated compounds.
 
To help chart a strategy for discovering potentially preventable causes of autism and other NDDs, the authors note that the Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center convened a workshop that produced a list of 10 chemicals that are widespread in the environment and suspected of causing developmental neurotoxicity: lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, organophosphate pesticides, organochlorine pesticides, endocrine disruptors, automobile exhaust, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, brominated flame retardants, and perfluorinated compounds.
 
To read the editorial, click here.

Related Articles
Casting doubt on previous conjectures, a new study suggests that statins do not protect patients against Parkinson’s disease.
Compared with those receiving short-acting antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), patients with epilepsy taking long-acting AEDs use fewer health care services and have lower related care costs.
Availability of a raw methamphetamine ingredient in popular OTC products prompted national regulations to move products that contain pseudoephedrine behind the pharmacy counter.
Former National Football League players who participated in tackle football before the age of 12 were more likely to have memory and thinking problems in adulthood.
Latest Issues
  • photo
    Pharmacy Times
    photo
    Health-System Edition
    photo
    Directions in Pharmacy
    photo
    OTC Guide
    photo
    Generic Supplements
  • photo
    Pharmacy Careers
    photo
    Specialty Pharmacy Times
    photo
    Generic
$auto_registration$