Pregnant women with high levels of DDE, a metabolite of the insecticide DDT, in their blood are more likely to have children who develop autism, NIEHS grantees reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry. In contrast, they found no association between mothers’ exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and autism development in their children. Lead author Alan Brown, M.D., is from the Columbia University Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute.
The study is the first to use maternal biomarkers during pregnancy to connect exposure to an insecticide with the risk for a clinical diagnosis of autism,” said Cindy Lawler, Ph.D., chief of the Genes, Environment, and Health Branch at NIEHS. “Along with genetic susceptibility, our environment is important in the risk for developing autism.”