Identifying environmental contributions to autism: Provocative clues and false leads

Cindy P. Lawler, Lisa A. Croen, Judith K. Grether, Judy Van De Water

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


The potential role of environmental factors in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is an area of emerging interest within the public and scientific communities. The high degree of heritability of ASD suggests that environmental influences are likely to operate through their interaction with genetic susceptibility during vulnerable periods of development. Evaluation of the plausibility of specific neurotoxicants as etiological agents in ASD should be guided by toxicological principles, including dose-effect dependency and pharmacokinetic parameters. Clinical and epidemiological investigations require the use of sufficiently powered study designs with appropriate control groups and unbiased case ascertainment and exposure assessment. Although much of the existing data that have been used to implicate environmental agents in ASD are limited by methodological shortcomings, a number of efforts are underway that will allow more rigorous evaluation of the role of environmental exposures in the etiology and/or phenotypic expression of the disorder. Surveillance systems are now in place that will provide reliable prevalence estimates going forward in time. Anticipated discoveries in genetics, brain pathology, and the molecular/cellular basis of functional impairment in ASD are likely to provide new opportunities to explore environmental aspects of this disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)292-302
Number of pages11
JournalMental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2004


  • Autism
  • Children's environmental health
  • Environmental response genes
  • Epidemiology
  • Epigenetics
  • Exposure assessment
  • Gene-environment interaction
  • Genetic susceptibility
  • Immunology
  • Neurotoxicology
  • Prevalence
  • Surveillance
  • Toxicokinetics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Genetics(clinical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Identifying environmental contributions to autism: Provocative clues and false leads'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this