Background: Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have been increasing in many parts of the world and a portion of cases are attributable to environmental exposures. Conclusive replicated findings have yet to appear on any specific exposure; however, mounting evidence suggests gestational pesticides exposures are strong candidates. Because multiple developmental processes are implicated in ASDs during gestation and early life, biological plausibility is more likely if these agents can be shown to affect core pathophysiological features. Objectives: Our objectives were to examine shared mechanisms between autism pathophysiology and the effects of pesticide exposures, focusing on neuroexcitability, oxidative stress, and immune functions and to outline the biological correlates between pesticide exposure and autism risk. Methods: We review and discuss previous research related to autism risk, developmental effects of early pesticide exposure, and basic biological mechanisms by which pesticides may induce or exacerbate pathophysiological features of autism. Discussion: On the basis of experimental and observational research, certain pesticides may be capable of inducing core features of autism, but little is known about the timing or dose, or which of various mechanisms is sufficient to induce this condition. Conclusions: In animal studies, we encourage more research on gene × environment interactions, as well as experimental exposure to mixtures of compounds. Similarly, epidemiologic studies in humans with exceptionally high exposures can identify which pesticide classes are of greatest concern, and studies focused on gene × environment are needed to determine if there are susceptible subpopulations at greater risk from pesticide exposures.
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Gene-environment interaction
- Oxidative stress
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health