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Sci Rep. 2016 May 13;6:26185. doi: 10.1038/srep26185.

Mean serum-level of common organic pollutants is predictive of behavioral severity in children with autism spectrum disorders.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.
The Children's Institute of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.


Autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and their pathogenesis, are growing public health concerns. This study evaluated common organic pollutant serum-concentrations in children, as it related to behavioral severity determined by rating scales and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). Thirty children, ages 2-9, with ASD and thirty controls matched by age, sex, and socioeconomic status were evaluated using direct blood serum sampling and ADOS. Pooling concentrations of all studied pollutants into a single variable yielded cohort-specific neurobehavioral relationships. Pooled serum-concentration correlated significantly with increasing behavioral severity on the ADOS in the ASD cohort (p = 0.011, r = 0.54), but not controls (p = 0.60, r = 0.11). Logistic regression significantly correlated mean pollutant serum-concentration with the probability of diagnosis of behaviorally severe autism, defined as ADOS >14, across all participants (odds ratio = 3.43 [95% confidence: 1.14-10.4], p = 0.0287). No specific analyte correlated with ADOS in either cohort. The ASD cohort displayed greater quantitative variance of analyte concentrations than controls (p = 0.006), suggesting a wide range of detoxification functioning in the ASD cohort. This study supports the hypothesis that environmental exposure to organic pollutants may play a significant role in the behavioral presentation of autism.

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