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Parent work environment linked to ASD

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Researchers suggest a link between Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and parental occupational exposures.

While other researchers have gone back and forth debating the relationship between parent income and a child's odds of having Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a new study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) focuses on a different aspect of parents' careers: the chemicals they work around.

The study, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, found:

  • Children with ASD were more likely to have parents that work around lacquer, varnish and xylene, compared to unaffected children
  • Parents of children with ASD were more likely to report exposures to asphalt and solvents, compared to the parents of unaffected children

These findings support a relationship between ASD and parental occupational exposures. However, given the relatively small sample size (93 children with ASD and 81 unaffected children), the authors see the study more as an invitation to explore that relationship, rather than a conclusion that it exists.

Photo: Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, Texas A&M/Flickr

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Audrey Quinn

Contributing Writer

Audrey Quinn is a Brooklyn-based multimedia journalist focused on health, tech and the economy. Her radio stories can be heard on Marketplace, Studio 360, PRI's The World, NPR's Latino USA, Deutsche Welle Radio and The Believer Magazine podcast. In addition to her work with CBS Interactive she produces multimedia science stories for online publications and is a teaching assistant at the Transom Story Workshop. Her investigative work has been awarded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure