Children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may have a reduced ability to detoxify the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), according to new research.
BPA is an industrial “plasticizer” used in plastic water bottles, food can linings, water supply pipelines, and other applications. BPA can affect the developing brain, and previous research has suggested a link between prenatal exposure to BPA and autistic symptoms in young children.
In the new study, T. Peter Stein and colleagues investigated the efficiency of glucuronidation—a process that removes toxins from the body—in 66 children with ASD, 46 children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and 37 controls. Performing multiple mass spectrometric analyses on urine samples from the children, they studied the efficacy of glucuronidation in 12 different pathways, including those for BPA and metabolites of another plasticizer (DEHP).
The researchers report that the three groups were metabolically different from each other. “Of the 12 pathways examined,” they say, “only the BPA and DEHP pathways discriminated between the three groups. Glucuronidation efficiencies for BPA were reduced by 11 percent for ASD and 17 percent for ADHD compared to controls.” DEHP showed similar trends, but these were not significant.
The researchers say, “How important plasticizer-originated neurodevelopmental disorder is in the overall occurrence of these disorders is not known, but it must account for a significant proportion or it would not have been so easy to detect in a metabolic study of moderate size such as this study.”
This article originally appeared in Autism Research Review International, Vol. 37, No. 4, 2023