Maternal Chemical and Drug Intolerances: Potential Risk Factors for Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

J Am Board Fam Med. 2015 Jul-Aug;28(4):461-70. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2015.04.140192.


Purpose: The aim of this study was to assess whether chemically intolerant women are at greater risk for having a child with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Methods: We conducted a case-control study of chemical intolerance among mothers of children with ASD (n = 282) or ADHD (n = 258) and children without these disorders (n = 154). Mothers participated in an online survey consisting of a validated chemical intolerance screening instrument, the Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory (QEESI). Cases and controls were characterized by parental report of a professional diagnosis. We used a one-way, unbalanced analysis of variance to compare means across the 3 groups.

Results: Both mothers of children with ASD or ADHD had significantly higher mean chemical intolerance scores than did mothers of controls, and they were more likely to report adverse reactions to drugs. Chemically intolerant mothers were 3 times more likely (odds ratio, 3.01; 95% confidence interval, 1.50-6.02) to report having a child with autism or 2.3 times more likely (odds ratio, 2.3; 95% confidence interval, 1.12-5.04) to report a child with ADHD. Relative to controls, these mothers report their children are more prone to allergies (P < .02), have strong food preferences or cravings (P < .003), and have greater sensitivity to noxious odors (P < .04).

Conclusion: These findings suggest a potential association between maternal chemical intolerance and a diagnosis of ADHD or ASD in their offspring.

Keywords: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; Autism Spectrum Disorder; Chemical Exposure; Chemical Intolerance; Maternal Exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / etiology*
  • Autistic Disorder / etiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Hypersensitivity / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Mothers*
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity / diagnosis*
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult