World Autism Awareness Day

Yesterday was World Autism Awareness Day and I spent the evening last night reviewing some of the latest information and research regarding autism.  According to the CDC the rates of Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are steadily rising.  In a recent census, it was reported that 1 in 88 children in the United States will be diagnosed with an ASD by the age of 8, a 23% increase since 2009.(1)   It generally stated that reasons for the increase are unknown or at least not well understood.  We know that both genetic and environmental factors play an important role.  There is much speculation in the media and amongst childhood health experts.   One of the most compelling pieces of evidence I looked at yesterday was the link between pthalate exposure and autism.   And I want to focus on it in today’s blog.   In a recently published study they found that children with ASD had significantly higher levels of pthalates in their urine than children with out Autism.   The results were so significant that the study suggests that high levels of pthalates in the urine could diagnose ASD with great accuracy!! (2)  This is mind blowing.   So what ARE pthalates?  Pthalates are plasticizers they are used in plastics to make them more flexible and transparent, they are also used as emulsifying agents in body products and as fragrance in many air fresheners and beauty products.  The good news is that pthalates don’t stay for very long in our bodies, they have a short half-life, so we can clear them easily.  The bad news is they are ubiquitous in the products we use every day.  So how do we avoid pthalates?  You will rarely see the word pthalate in an ingredients list.  Instead look out for the following abbreviations and ingredient listings(3):

  • DBP and DEP
  • DEHP
  • BzBP
  • DMP
  • The term fragrance is often reference to a pthalate compound
  • Plastics with the recycling code 3 or 7 likely contain pthalates


Like we said pthalates are everywhere and they may be harming your child’s neurologic function.  Here are a few simple tips of products to avoid or look for pthalate-free versions:

  • Avoid cooking in Teflon pans the coating has pthalates that get absorbed into your food
  • Avoid artificial air fresheners in your home and car the fragrance is likely filling the air with these compounds
  • Read the labels on all flexible plastics from food containers to children’s toys
  • Enteric coated pharmaceuticals and supplements often contain phtalates in the coating
  • Be weary of all cosmetics, body and hair products as well as cleaning products.  Carefully read the labels and choose pthalate free versions.


1. Baio, Jon et al.  Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders – Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 14 sites, United States, 200.  Surveillance Summaries.  March 30, 1021/61(SSO3);1-19

2. Testa C, et al. ASN Neuro 2012;4:223-9  PMID 22537663

3. Tox Town:  Environ health concerns and toxic chemicals where you live, work and play.  National Library of Medicine.  2/26/2013;

One Response to “World Autism Awareness Day”

  1. John N. April 8, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    Thanks for raising some awareness about these harmful toxins that are in many of our everyday products. I have replaced my teflon pans and am always looking for other ways that I can reduce my toxin exposure.

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