Scientists Stress Importance of Environmental Causes in Autism Research


children with autism, autism disorderThe U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works, Subcommittee on Children’s Health met yesterday to discuss the role environmental factors play in the surging autism epidemic.

Autism Speaks’ Chief Science Officer Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D. emphasized the importance of research on environmental risk factors for autism spectrum disorders, saying, “Although genetic factors clearly contribute to the causes of autism, we also need to understand environmental factors and their interactions with genetic susceptibility.”

This is good news for parents who feel the recent genetic study doesn’t entirely explain the root of their child’s autism.  As you know, many parents still consider vaccines to be the culprit, and paying express attention to other environmental factors will be key in helping them let go of that now disproved theory.  Dawson stresses the necessity of this type of research, saying, “It is important to investigate the roles of the prenatal and early postnatal environment.  To investigate environmental factors that may be active during this time, researchers are casting a wide net on potential environmental agents that can alter neurodevelopment, including exposure to infection, pesticides, and chemicals.”

According to a press release, Autism Speaks and the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences will co-sponsor a workshop this fall “to help identify the most promising strategies and scientific directions for understanding the role of the environment in ASD.”