In a recently done study, researchers just established a link between autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and flame retardants. According to their research in mice, long-term exposure to these chemicals appears to promote the development of specific ASD traits.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), more commonly known as “flame retardants,” are additives found in many everyday products such as clothing and appliances that can harm our health. Scientific literature has shown that PBDEs can affect fertility.
And according to a new U.S. study, they may also be linked to autism-like behaviors. Researchers at the University of California Riverside (UCR) found a link between PBDE exposure and brain changes in the offspring of female mice.
Specifically, the researchers found that when rodents pass these chemicals to their offspring, the offspring are more likely to exhibit traits characteristic of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). PBDEs are neuroendocrine disruptors and can, for example, cause repetitive behaviors in rodents. Or even olfactory disturbances, which in animals often lead to a change in “social odor”.
“Offspring of mother mice exposed to PBDEs showed olfactory deficits that reduced their ability to recognize other mice. In fact, these offspring could not distinguish new mice from familiar mice. Humans with ASD also have abnormal olfactory abilities,” explains Margarita Curras-Collazo, professor of neuroscience, who led the study published in the journal Archives of Toxicology.
Oxytocin disrupted by PBDE exposure
Researchers in the study exposed the mother mice to PBDEs by mouth. The offspring were exposed to flame retardants during gestation and then during lactation.
The authors found that gene expression of oxytocin (involved in social recognition memory) was subject to change, as were other genes associated with prosocial behavior.
“This shows that exposure to PBDEs during development confers neurochemical, olfactory, and social-behavioral traits relevant to ASD in adult female offspring, which may be due to early neurodevelopmental reprogramming in social key and memory neural networks,” concluded Elena Kozlova, who studies neuroscience at UCR and co-authored the study.
If this study proves to be true then it would be time to consider using different types of flame retardants as the cost of caring for autistic children is becoming more prohibitive not only to their immediate families but also to society as a whole.