Serious researchers have been able to correlate fetal exposure to chemical compounds called organochlorine chemicals with an 80 percent increase in a future autism diagnosis. Kristen Lyall, ScD, is an assistant professor in Drexel University’s A.J. Drexel Autism Institute.
Although production of organochlorine chemicals was banned in the United States in 1977, these compounds can remain in the environment and become absorbed in the fat of animals that humans eat, leading to exposure.
"There's a fair amount of research examining exposure to these chemicals during pregnancy in association with other outcomes, like birth weight -- but little research on autism, specifically," Lyall said. "To examine the role of environmental exposures in risk of autism, it is important that samples are collected during time frames with evidence for susceptibility for autism -- termed 'critical windows' in neurodevelopment. Fetal development is one of those critical windows."
Researchers and scientists from California’s Department of Public Health, members of Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research and numerous others have released a paper—“Polychlorinated Biphenyl and Organochlorine Pesticide Concentrations in Maternal Mid-Pregnancy Serum Samples: Association with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Intellectual Disability”—describing their findings.