New study links BPA exposure to autism spectrum disorder

March 5, 2015, Rowan University
autism
Quinn, an autistic boy, and the line of toys he made before falling asleep. Repeatedly stacking or lining up objects is a behavior commonly associated with autism. Credit: Wikipedia.

A newly published study is the first to report an association between bisphenol-A (BPA), a common plasticizer used in a variety of consumer food and beverage containers, with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children. The study, by researchers at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine (RowanSOM) and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS), shows that BPA is not metabolized well in children with ASD. The research appears online in Autism Research.

"It has been suspected for a lot of years that BPA is involved in , but there was no direct evidence," said T. Peter Stein, of RowanSOM and the study's lead author. "We've shown there is a link. The metabolism of BPA is different in some children with autism than it is in otherwise healthy children."

The research team – which included Margaret Schluter and Robert Steer, of RowanSOM who were responsible for laboratory analysis, and child neurologist Xue Ming, of NJMS who recruited and ascertained the study populations – examined urine specimens from 46 children with ASD and 52 healthy control children for both free BPA and total BPA concentrations. Like many chemicals, BPA becomes water soluble when it is bound to glucose in the liver – a process called glucuronidation. Conversion to a glucuronide and then excretion of the glucuronide in the urine is a major pathway for removing toxins from the body.

The researchers also conducted a metabolomic analysis to screen for all the chemicals found in the children's urine. The metabolomics analyses showed the mean number of statistically significant correlations between metabolites detected and total BPA excreted to be approximately three times greater with the ASD group than the controls, and the number of statistical significant correlations with fraction of BPA bound was approximately15 times higher in the children with ASD (p<0.001).

"Other studies involving rodent data have shown that BPA functions as an endocrine disruptor, but ours is the first to show this in humans and the first to associate it to autism," Stein said. "The observations show that for some children there was a relationship between intermediary metabolism, the ability to conjugate BPA and symptoms of autism."

Although the study involves a relatively small number of subjects, Stein said, "The key point is that the study seems to link BPA to autism and creates an open area for further research. One implication of our study is that there might be a benefit to reducing BPA exposure for pregnant women and for with autism."

This research was supported by grants from the New Jersey Governor's Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism and the National Institutes of Health, and by a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense.

Explore further: Prenatal BPA exposure associated with diminished lung function in children

More information: Bisphenol A Exposure in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders, Autism Research, DOI: 10.1002/aur.1444

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5 comments

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xstos
4.8 / 5 (8) Mar 05, 2015
Stop blaming vaccines and blame all the toxic organic compounds we're inundated with. Exposure to VOCs from oil/gas is known to be toxic, yet the plastics derived from those inputs are ubiquitous and unwittingly ingested by almost everybody. Plastic containers and bottles, often heated up in the microwave are humorously regarded as safe.
Debbie M_
3.7 / 5 (6) Mar 06, 2015
This headline is wrong. This study suggests there might be a difference in BPA metabolism between those with ASD and those without it. It looks like they had to torture the data even to come up with this much of an association. To say that this research links autism to BPA is totally unwarranted. The PR hacks at universities need to learn that these press releases harm their institutions' reputations among those who are knowledgeable about research.
cjn
3 / 5 (4) Mar 06, 2015
Debbie_M:
This headline is wrong. This study suggests there might be a difference in BPA metabolism between those with ASD and those without it. It looks like they had to torture the data even to come up with this much of an association. To say that this research links autism to BPA is totally unwarranted. The PR hacks at universities need to learn that these press releases harm their institutions' reputations among those who are knowledgeable about research.


Bingo! Looks like click-bait to me. The worst part will be that no one will critically read the content, but will be convinced that BPA makes kids autistic and point to the article as proof.
Caliban
3 / 5 (4) Mar 07, 2015
Ahem.

What the study indicates is that there is a definite link to BPA "metabolism" and autism.
Since autism hasn't been shown to interfere with any other normal metabolic processes, and the fact that autistic children are otherwise physiologically normal, claiming that this just discovered link is merely an artifact of the poor reasoning skills of the researchers is the worst kind of deliberate denial, and one can only speculate as to why someone would claim as much.

Antivaxxer axe-grinding? Petrochemical apologist diversion? Mere stupidity?

Whatever. Since there is well-established science speaking to the toxicity of plastics in general, and BP(*) in general, it is plain that they either need to be completely reformulated or eliminated altogether, in order to avoid very long term hazards associated with direct or environmental exposure to them, specifically, and a whole host of other toxic additives to consumables of every description.

ctd
Caliban
3 / 5 (4) Mar 07, 2015
ctd

In the meantime, what these researchers have done is clearly demonstrate that there is a relation between autism and the changed metabolism of bpa in its sufferers.

What they have also done is to --quite correctly-- call for further exploration of this relation.

The egregious claim of "Chicken and Egg" as grounds for dismissal of this observed link smacks entirely of agenda on the part of commenters @Debbie_M and @cjn.

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