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Environmental Risk Factors in Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Narrative Review


Konstantin Yenkoyan*, Meri Mkhitaryan and Geir Bjørklund*   Pages 1 - 16 ( 16 )


Existing evidence indicates that environmental factors might contribute up to 50% of the variance in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) risk. This structured narrative review offers a comprehensive synthesis of current knowledge on environmental risk factors in ASD, including evaluation of conflicting evidence, exploration of underlying mechanisms, and suggestions for future research directions. Analysis of diverse epidemiological investigations indicates that certain environmental factors, including advanced parental age, preterm birth, delivery complications, and exposure to toxic metals, drugs, air pollutants, and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, are linked to an increased ASD risk through various mechanisms such as oxidative stress, inflammation, hypoxia, and its consequences, changes in neurotransmitters, disruption of signaling pathways and some others. On the other hand, pregnancy-related factors such as maternal diabetes, maternal obesity, and caesarian section show a weaker association with ASD risk. At the same time, other environmental factors, such as vaccination, maternal smoking, or alcohol consumption, are not linked to the risk of ASD. Regarding nutritional elements data are inconclusive. These findings highlight the significance of environmental factors in ASD etiology and emphasize that more focused research is needed to target the risk factors of ASD. Environmental interventions targeting modifiable risk factors might offer promising avenues for ASD prevention and treatment.


autism spectrum disorder,epidemiology,risk factors,environmental factors,toxic metals,pregnancy


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