Parental exposure to workplace solvents may be linked to autism spectrum disorder in their children, federal health researchers concluded in a new study calling for more research on the potential connection.
The preliminary findings of the study, by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), indicated exposures to lacquer, varnish and xylene occurred more often in the parents of children with autism, compared to the parents of unaffected children.
The study, published online in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, also found parents of children with autism are more likely to report exposures to asphalt and solvents, compared to parents of unaffected children.
Autism spectrum disorder is a group of developmental conditions including autism, Asperger's syndrome and pervasive development disorder. Experts don’t know what causes the conditions and treatment is often challenging.’
For the new study, NIOSH researchers analyzed information from the Childhood Autism Risk from Genetics and the Environment study at the University of California-Davis. They tracked 174 families - 93 children with ASD and 81 with typical development. They surveyed parents about workplace chemical exposures before and during pregnancy, and birth.
"Overall, these results add to the mounting evidence that individual exposures may be important in the development of ASD,” said lead NIOSH researcher Erin McCanlies. “However, these results are preliminary and are not conclusive. Additional research is required to confirm and extend these initial findings."
The researchers described the study as “a first pass screen from which results can be used to target future research directions and should therefore not be taken as conclusive.”