62. Assessing the Relation between Plasma PCB Concentrations and Elevated Autistic Behaviours using Bayesian Predictive Odds Ratios (abstract)

Bernardo BA, Lanphear BP, Venners SA, Arbuckle TE, Braun JM, Muckle G, Fraser WD, McCandless LC. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2019 Feb 5;16(3). pii: E457. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16030457.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by impaired social communication and repetitive or stereotypic behaviours. In utero exposure to environmental chemicals, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), may play a role in the etiology of ASD. We examined the relation between plasma PCB concentrations measured during pregnancy and autistic behaviours in a subset of children aged 3–4 years old in the Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals (MIREC) Study, a pregnancy and birth cohort of 546 mother-infant pairs from Canada (enrolled: 2008–2011). We quantified the concentrations of 6 PCB congeners that were detected in >40% of plasma samples collected during the 1st trimester. At age 3–4 years, caregivers completed the Social Responsiveness Scale-2 (SRS), a valid and reliable measure of children’s reciprocal social and repetitive behaviours and restricted interests. We examined SRS scores as both a continuous and binary outcome, and we calculated Bayesian predictive odds ratios for more autistic behaviours based on a latent variable model for SRS scores >60. We found no evidence of an association between plasma PCB concentrations and autistic behaviour. However, we found small and imprecise increases in the mean SRS score and odds of more autistic behaviour for the highest category of plasma PCB concentrations compared with the lowest category; for instance, an average increase of 1.4 (95%PCI: −0.4, 3.2) in the mean SRS (exposure contrast highest versus lowest PCB category) for PCB138 translated to an odds ratio of 1.8 (95%PCI: 1.0, 2.9). Our findings illustrate the importance of measuring associations between PCBs and autistic behaviour on both continuous and binary scales.