Study Links Maternal Chemical Intolerance with ASD


According to a new study, mothers who are chemically intolerant are more likely to have children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

To be chemically intolerant means to have serious reactions to common chemicals and in some cases become too ill to carry out routine functions. This affects roughly 10 to 30 percent of the U.S. population.

Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio based the study on maternal responses to the Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory, or QEESI, a 50-question survey used by physicians worldwide to diagnose chemical intolerance.

The study involved 282 mothers of children who had ASD and 258 mothers of children diagnosed with ADHD. A further control group was established that involved 154 mothers whose children had no developmental disorders.

"We are most concerned about how vulnerable the children with ADHD and autism were to environmental exposures," said the primary author, Lynne P. Heilbrun, M.P.H., autism research coordinator for the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the Health Science Center. "Mothers reported that their children were significantly more sensitive to everyday exposures such as engine exhaust, gasoline, smoke, fragrances and cleaners than their neurotypical peers." The children reportedly also were more sensitive to adverse effects from infections, medications, chemicals, foods and allergens, the authors said.

Results showed that chemically intolerant mothers were three times more likely to report having a child with ASD and 2.3 times more likely to have a child with ADHD.

Fathers were not included in this study.

Mothers in the study who had a child with ASD or ADHD reported that their children had more illnesses or symptoms associated with chemical intolerance than control mothers.

  • -- The children with ASD were 4.9 times more likely than control children to have had multiple infections requiring prolonged use of antibiotics.
  • -- Children with ASD were 1.6 times as likely as control children to have allergies.
  • -- Children with ASD were 3.5 times more likely to have had nausea, headaches, dizziness or trouble breathing when exposed to smoke, nail polish remover, engine exhaust, gasoline, air fresheners or cleaning agents than control children.
  • -- Children with ASD were 4.8 times as likely as controls to have strong food preferences or cravings for cheese, chips, bread, pasta, rice, sugar, salt and chocolate.

“The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology issued a consensus statement in 2013 saying that there is sufficient evidence linking toxic exposures to adverse birth and developmental outcomes, calling for physicians to inform women to avoid specific environmental exposures even before conception. Studies that linked tobacco and alcohol to neurological disorders were available for decades before recommendations to avoid these became a major public health initiative. Physicians have the opportunity right now to become proactive in helping mothers protect their children from neurological disorders plaguing U.S. families,” Heilbrun said.

The authors recommend that all mothers and pregnant women adopt preventive measures to avoid potentially harmful chemicals. Preventive measures include avoiding exposure to pesticides, solvents, combustion products, and chemicals used during construction and remodeling.

This study appears in The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

Source: UTHSCSA News

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