Autism Linked to Toxic Chemicals in Household Products, Personal Care Products and Food: Study

New scientific research has linked autism* to chemicals commonly found in U.S. household products, personal care products and food: PCBs, Phthalates, Bisphenol-A (BPA) and Pesticides.  More specifically, the study found that women who are exposed to these toxic industrial chemicals while pregnant are more likely to have autistic children.

Study overview

Researchers measured levels of 25 chemicals in blood and urine samples from 1,861 Canadian women during the first trimester of pregnancy (including measured pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), phthalate, bisphenol-A, and triclosan).  The scientific team used data from the Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals (MIREC) Study, a pregnancy cohort from ten Canadian cities.  The study recruited women during the first trimester of pregnancy between 2008 and 2011, with follow up surveys and check ups as the children grew older…

When 478 participating children were 3-4 years old, their parents completed a preschool-aged version of a questionnaire designed to identify autistic-traits. The sum of responses to the survey offered a child’s T-score, where higher scores indicate a greater number and intensity of autistic behaviors. The researchers then used the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS) questionnaire, which gives an indication of stereotypical behaviors seen in autistic children.

Using the Bayesian quantile regression statistical analysis tool, investigators determined which individual toxicants were associated with increased SRS scores in a more nuanced way.

Results overview

The results suggest a direct link between increased autistic-like behaviors in preschool aged children and exposure to certain toxic chemicals during pregnancy.  The toxins that led to autistic-traits in children included metals, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), phthalates, and bisphenol-A (BPA).


*For common Signs and Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) page here.



Journal Reference: Alampi, J.D., et al.  Gestational Exposure to Toxicants and Autistic Behaviors using Bayesian Quantile Regression, American Journal of Epidemiology, kwab065,

DOI: / summary