Exposure in the womb to a group of endocrine-disrupting chemicals called phthalates was associated with autism traits in boys (but not girls) between ages 3 and 4 years, according to a new study, Healthline reports.
However, fewer of these traits were observed in boys whose mothers took the recommended amount of folic acid during the first trimester, the findings suggest. “Very few studies looked at autism and its associated traits, with inconsistent findings. We tried to look at this question in a large sample from a Canadian cohort that was designed specifically to look at potential developmental effects of exposure to environmental chemicals,” lead author Youssef Oulhote, assistant professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at UMass Amherst’s School of Public Health & Health Sciences, told Healthline.
Phthalates are commonly used in many products, including soap and cosmetics. Oulhote and team enrolled 2,001 Canadian women with an average age of 33 who were in their first trimester of pregnancy between 2008 and 2011. Less than 10 percent of the women reported regularly drinking or smoking during pregnancy.
All the participants were recruited from the Maternal Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals , a longitudinal pregnancy cohort study conducted in Canada. Researchers collected information from questionnaires, medical charts, and maternal blood and urine specimens during pregnancy and at delivery.