A toxin found in food, drinks and other everyday items lingers longer in the bodies of kids with autism and ADHD, a study suggests.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical compound that has been dubbed a ‘gender-bending’ chemical because of its ties to hormonal and sexual problems.
Now, researchers from Rowan University and Rutgers University in New Jersey have found that kids with autism and ADHD cannot expel BPA from their bodies as quickly as neurotypical kids. BPA has been linked to both conditions previously, though this is the first to find that kids with ADHD and autism have a harder time eliminating the chemical.
The researchers also believe increased BPA exposure may increase the risk of developing these conditions but admit it is not clear how that works.
But the new link is bound to reignite calls to clamp down on the amount of BPA allowed in products in America, which has some of the most lax rules in the Western world.
Earlier this year, European officials drastically reduced the maximum amount of BPA by 20,000 times after finding that millions of people are likely consuming too much of the dangerous chemical. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows much higher levels.
The US also has some of the highest autism and ADHD rates in the world, with rates of autism in particular increasing by 52 percent since 2017.
The study, published last month in the journal PLOS One, measured detoxification efficiency- how quickly the body eliminates chemicals like BPA- in 66 children with autism, 46 with ADHD, and 37 neurotypical children. The participants were three to 16 years old.
In order to determine how much BPA they purged, researchers collected urine samples from each child between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., which were then frozen. The team also measured the children’s dietary and vitamin intake.
They found that children with autism are 10 percent less able to eliminate BPA from their bodies, while kids with ADHD are 17 percent less able to purge the chemical.
Dr T Peter Stein, professor at the Roman-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine and lead study author, said this compromised ability to clear BPA and other pollutants from the body is ‘the first hard biochemical evidence of what the linkage is between BPA and the development of autism or ADHD.’
‘We were surprised to find that ADHD shows the same defect in BPA detoxification.’
BPA is an ‘endocrine disruptor,’ meaning it can imitate the body’s hormones and interfere with the production of and response to natural hormones like estrogen. It has also been linked to low sperm counts and infertility in men, as well as breast and prostate cancer.
Previous research has found associations between children with autism and exposure to BPA, though this new study is the first to find that children with this condition are less able to expel the chemical.
About one in 36 children in the US have autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a developmental disability.
People with ASD often have problems with social communication and interaction, as well as restricted or repetitive behaviors and interests.