Women who are exposed to solvents at work are 1.5 times more likely to have a child with autism, a new study suggests.
The recent increase in cases of autism – which now affects one in 68 children in the US – suggests that there is something more than genetic inheritance.
But autism remains a fairly mysterious situation. Its severity exists in a broad spectrum, the cause is unknown and the risk factors are numerous and diverse.
New research by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) revealed a strong link between autistic children and mothers who perform industrial jobs that expose them to powerful chemicals.
The authors of the study think that while these children are still in the womb, they are exposed to the same toxins that are their mothers, and it can change their brain development.
Exposure to high levels of powerful solvent chemicals at work has been linked to a 1.5-fold higher chance of women having children with autism in new US government research
In less than 20 years, the number of eight-year-olds on the autism spectrum has more than doubled.
In 2000, about one in 150 American children had autism.
But 2014, that number had risen to one in every 59 children.
Regarding why, that is a question for a lot of debate.
Scientists are fairly certain that genetics has something to do with autism, which is more likely for children with a brother or sister in the spectrum.
From there, risk factors are a loose, incoherent network. Autism is more common in boys, children of older parents and children with intellectual disabilities and most children are not diagnosed until after their fourth birthday, but there is no age limit.
After much controversy, the scientific community has ruled out the idea that vaccines are a risk factor and much less a cause of autism.
Some blame the rapid increase in cases on simple consciousness. Children are more likely to be diagnosed with autism if their parents or caregivers are aware of the condition.
But most experts suspect environmental factors play a role.
Studies suggest that pollution and other toxins can cause epigenetic or even gut microbiomal changes that entail autism risks.
The NIOSH team decided to look at solvents, a broad and powerful class of chemicals used in many industries, from organizing food to plastic, from engineering to dry cleaning and printing to pharmaceutical products.
Proper protective equipment is crucial when working with solvents that can be carcinogenic, toxic to the brain, and can contribute to infertility.
According to NIOSH, & # 39; millions of American employees are & # 39; exposed to them.
The powerful chemicals can enter someone's system through skin contact, inhalation and can linger in the body for a long time.
We already know that solvents have been associated with reproductive disruption, and they may affect a baby that develops in the womb.
So the increase seen in the last 20 years can happen if women who were exposed to these chemicals decades ago – even stricter regulations – had children.
The new study, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, looked at data on the chemical and environmental exposure of 750 American mothers and 891 American fathers.
Although they took asphalt, metal, pesticides, plastics, irradiation, disinfectants, and more into account, solvents had the greatest effect on mothers whose exposure was greatest between the risks of autism in their children.
The mothers of children on the autism spectrum were exposed to more solvents than women with children who had no autism.
And those who were exposed to higher levels of solvents at work were 1.5 times more likely to have children with autism.
Women who were confronted with & # 39; moderate intensity & # 39; exposure levels were nearly twice as likely to have a child in the spectrum.
The researchers only followed their subjects, so their findings do not explain why these women are more likely to have children with autism.
& # 39; However, these results are consistent with previous reports that have identified solvents as a potential risk factor for (autism spectrum disorders), & # 39; the researchers said.
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