Mean serum-level of common organic pollutants is predictive of behavioral severity in children with autism spectrum disorders

Sci Rep. 2016 May 13;6:26185. doi: 10.1038/srep26185.


Autism spectrum disorders (ASD), and their pathogenesis, are growing public health concerns. This study evaluated common organic pollutant serum-concentrations in children, as it related to behavioral severity determined by rating scales and the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). Thirty children, ages 2-9, with ASD and thirty controls matched by age, sex, and socioeconomic status were evaluated using direct blood serum sampling and ADOS. Pooling concentrations of all studied pollutants into a single variable yielded cohort-specific neurobehavioral relationships. Pooled serum-concentration correlated significantly with increasing behavioral severity on the ADOS in the ASD cohort (p = 0.011, r = 0.54), but not controls (p = 0.60, r = 0.11). Logistic regression significantly correlated mean pollutant serum-concentration with the probability of diagnosis of behaviorally severe autism, defined as ADOS >14, across all participants (odds ratio = 3.43 [95% confidence: 1.14-10.4], p = 0.0287). No specific analyte correlated with ADOS in either cohort. The ASD cohort displayed greater quantitative variance of analyte concentrations than controls (p = 0.006), suggesting a wide range of detoxification functioning in the ASD cohort. This study supports the hypothesis that environmental exposure to organic pollutants may play a significant role in the behavioral presentation of autism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / pathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Organic Chemicals / analysis*
  • Serum / chemistry*
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Organic Chemicals