Food container chemical shows risk to autistic children in NJ study
A chemical used to create flexibility in a wide variety of beverage and food containers may pose a particular risk to autistic children, according to a new study by two New Jersey medical institutions.
The report, from the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, says researchers have found that the chemical Bisphenol A, or BPA may pose a higher risk to the brain chemistry of children with autism spectrum disorder because they are not able to metabolize it as well as others.
"Autistic children, or some of them, are more susceptible to having their metabolism moved around a little bit by BPA," said Dr. Peter Stein, lead author of the study. "Not enough to kill you, but it might be enough to affect behavior."
BPA is a "plasticizer" found in disposable plastic bottles, soda cans and even supermarket receipts.
While the study is the first to link BPA with autism, the researchers do not say the chemical has been found to cause the disorder. Stein said any such finding would require further research on a larger scale, probably requiring the resources of the Food and Drug Administration or National Institutes of Health.
“The key point is that the study seems to link BPA to autism and creates an open area for further research," Stein said. "One implication of our study is that there might be a benefit to reducing BPA exposure for pregnant women and for children with autism.”
The New Jersey researchers compared urine samples from a group of children with autism and a group without.
For years, the scientific and health communities have raised concerns about the effect of the chemical on the brain and behavior of children, infants and fetuses. Research has linked BPA to birth defects in animals, leaving to recommendations that pregnant women and very young children not be exposed to it.