Scientists hunt possible link between common plastic additive and autism and ADHD

Bisphenol A (BPA) is used in a lot of plastic production, and can be found inside food and drink packaging. A new study found a possible link between how the body processes BPA to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Link to a Science Alert article here.

In this new study, researchers from Rowan University and Rutgers University in the US looked at three groups of children: 66 with autism, 46 with ADHD, and 37 neurotypical kids. In particular, they analyzed the process of glucuronidation, a chemical process the body uses to clear out toxins within the blood through urine.

The research found that kids with ASD and ADHD couldn't clear out BPA and another similar compound called Diethylhexyl Phthalate (DEHP) with as much efficiency as other kids, potentially leading to longer exposure to their toxic effects.

"Detoxification of these two plasticizers is compromised in children with ASD and ADHD," write the researchers in their published paper. "Consequently, their tissues are more exposed to these two plasticizers."

The researchers believe that a genetically derived inability to quickly and efficiently clear out certain substances can mean that BPA lingers in the body longer, potentially causing neurological damage.

Conditions like ASD and ADHD are thought to be brought on by a combination of genetic and environmental influences, and this new study brings together both of them. However, it's only part of the story – not every child with a neurodevelopmental disorder had problems flushing out BPA, so there are other factors at play, too.

Work is continuing on how SD and ADHD develop, but the researchers believe this study indicates that plasticizers are a significant contributor.