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Etiology: Environmental Factors 

Etiology: Environmental Factors

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date: 24 April 2017

This chapter presents findings from large-scale epidemiologic studies that address risk and protective factors for autism. It provides a synthetic overview of the extant literature relevant to the noninherited etiologic factors in autism, highlighting promising leads that may point to causal and modifiable exposures. It begins with the literature on sociodemographic factors, focusing on how variables such as parental age, ethnicity, social class, and seasonality are a source of clues about etiology, including environmental exposures. The second section concerns medical exposures, and comprises infections and immunology, fertility treatments, obstetric factors, and vaccines. The third section addresses traditional environmental exposures, most of which are, to some extent, involuntary: metals, pesticides, air pollutants, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and other compounds we breathe, ingest, or absorb dermally. Finally, the limited research on lifestyle, including smoking, alcohol, nutrients, and diet, is described, along with topics holding for future work.

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