Autism spectrum disorders comprise a complex group with many subtypes of behaviorally defined neurodevelopmental abnormalities in two core areas: deficits in social communication and fixated, restricted, repetitive, or stereotyped behaviors and interests each with potential unique risk factors and characteristics. The underlying mechanisms and the possible causes of autism spectrum disorder remain elusive and while increased prevalence is undoubtable, it is unclear if it is a reflection of diagnostic improvement or emerging risk factors such as endocrine disrupting chemicals. Epidemiological studies, which are used to study the relation between endocrine disrupting chemicals and autism spectrum disorder, can have inherent methodological challenges that limit the quality and strength of their findings. The objective of this work is to systematically review the treatment of these challenges and assess the quality and strength of the findings in the currently available literature. The overall quality and strength were “moderate” and “limited,” respectively. Risk of bias due to the exclusion of potential confounding factors and the lack of accuracy of exposure assessment methods were the most prevalent. The omnipresence of endocrine disrupting chemicals and the biological plausibility of the association between prenatal exposure and later development of autism spectrum disorder highlight the need to carry out well-designed epidemiological studies that overcome the methodological challenges observed in the currently available literature in order to be able to inform public policy to prevent exposure to these potentially harmful chemicals and aid in the establishment of predictor variables to facilitate early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and improve long-term outcomes.
Authors: Salvador Marí-Bauset, Isabel Peraita-Costa, Carolina Donat-Vargas, Agustín Llopis-González, Amelia Marí-Sanchis, Juan Llopis-Morales, María Morales Suárez-Varela
; Full Source: Autism : the international journal of research and practice 2021 Aug 19;13623613211039950. doi: 10.1177/13623613211039950.