In recent years, there has been a troubling rise in diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and we're not exactly sure why.
Scientists are tirelessly investigating the myriad factors that might contribute to these conditions. And a new study has shed light on a possible link between these neurodevelopmental disorders and a common element in our daily lives: plastics.
Central to this study is bisphenol A (BPA), a widespread plastic additive found in numerous consumer products, from water bottles to the linings of canned foods. Despite its prevalence, BPA's safety has been questioned, with previous studies associating it with various health risks, including hormonal disturbances that could lead to serious conditions like breast cancer and infertility.
This study, conducted jointly by experts from Rowan University and Rutgers University, took a closer look at how children with ASD and ADHD process BPA compared to their neurotypical peers. The study involved three distinct groups: 66 children with autism, 46 with ADHD, and 37 neurotypical children.
A notable finding of this study was the reduced efficiency in children with ASD and ADHD in clearing out BPA and Diethylhexyl Phthalate (DEHP), another similar compound. This reduced efficiency, which was about 11% lower in kids with ASD and 17% lower in those with ADHD compared to neurotypical children, implies prolonged exposure to these potentially harmful substances.
The researchers suggest that genetic mutations may impair the ability of some individuals to effectively process BPA, leading to its increased duration in the body. This prolonged presence could, in theory, impact neuron development and function, although the exact mechanisms remain unclear.
ASD and ADHD are complex disorders thought to arise from a blend of genetic and environmental factors. This study bridges these aspects, highlighting the potential role of everyday environmental toxins in the development of these conditions.
But it's important to recognize that this is just one piece of a larger puzzle. Not every child with a neurodevelopmental disorder exhibited difficulties in processing BPA, pointing to other contributing elements.
That said, the study authors concluded, "There is an extensive body of epidemiological evidence for a relationship between neurodevelopmental disorders and environmental pollutants such as plasticizers."
The implications of their work suggest that these everyday substances might play a more significant role in these disorders than previously understood.