Oulhote Y, Lanphear BP, Braun JM, Webster GM, Arbuckle TE, Etzel T, Forget-Dubois N, Séguin JR, Bouchard MF, MacFarlane AJ, Ouellet E, Fraser WD, Muckle G. Environmental Health Perspectives 2020 Feb;128(2):27004. doi: 10.1289/EHP5621
The etiology of autism spectrum disorder is poorly understood. Few studies have investigated the link between endocrine-disrupting chemicals and autistic traits. We examined the relationship between gestational phthalates and autistic traits in 3- to 4-y-old Canadian children. We also investigated potential effect modification by sex and folic acid supplementation.
We enrolled 2,001 of age during the first trimester of pregnancy between 2008 and 2011 from 10 cities in Canada. At 3-4 years of age, 610 children underwent neuropsychological assessments including the Social Responsiveness Scale-II (SRS-2) as a measure of autistic traits and social impairment. We measured 11 phthalate metabolites in maternal first trimester urine samples and assessed folic acid supplementation from reported intakes. We estimated covariate-adjusted differences in SRS-2 T-scores with a doubling in phthalate concentrations in 510 children with complete data.
Mean total SRS T-score was 45.3 (). Children with higher gestational exposure to mono-n-butyl (MBP) and mono-3-carboxypropyl (MCPP) concentrations exhibited significantly higher total SRS T-scores, indicating greater overall social impairment, as well as higher scores on subdomains, indicating deficits in social cognition, social communication, social motivation, and restricted interests/repetitive behaviors. A doubling in MBP or MCPP concentrations was associated with 0.6 (95% CI: 0.1, 1.0) and 0.5 (95% CI: 0.1, 0.8) higher total SRS T-scores. Associations were consistently and significantly stronger in boys (= 1.0; 95% CI: 0.4, 1.6; ) compared with girls (; 95% CI: 0.7; ) and among children who had lower prenatal folic acid supplementation () (; 95% CI: 0.4, 2.3; ) compared with those who had adequate folic acid supplementation () (; 95% CI: , 0.8; ).
Higher gestational concentrations of some phthalate metabolites were associated with higher scores of autistic traits as measured by the SRS-2 in boys, but not girls; these small size effects were mitigated by first trimester-of-pregnancy folic acid supplementation. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP5621.