Potential contributions of environmental chemicals and conditions to the etiology of Autism Spectrum Disorders are the subject of considerable cur-rent research and speculation. The present paper describes the results of a study undertaken as part of a larger project devoted to the connection between properties of the indoor environment and asthma and allergy in young Swedish children. The larger project, The Dampness in Buildings and Health (DBH) Study, began in the year 2000 with a questionnaire distributed to parents of all children 1-6 years of age in one Swedish county (DBH-I). A second, follow-up questionnaire (DBH-III) was distributed in 2005. The original survey collected information about the child, the family situation, practices such as smoking, allergic symptoms, type of residence, moisture-related problems, and type of flooring material, which included polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The 2005 survey, based on the same children, now 6-8 years of age, also asked if, during the intervening period, the child had been diagnosed with Autism, Asperger's syndrome, or Tourette's syndrome. From a total of 4779 eligible children, 72 (60 boys, 12 girls) were identified with parentally reported autism spectrum disorder. A random sample of 10 such families confirmed that the diagnoses had been made by medical professionals, in accordance with the Swedish system for monitoring children's health. An analysis of the associations between indoor environmental variables in 2000 as well as other background factors and the ASD diagnosis indicated five statistically significant variables: (1) maternal smoking; (2) male sex; (3) economic problems in the family; (4) condensation on windows, a proxy for low ventilation rate in the home; (5) PVC flooring, especially in the parents' bedroom. In addition, airway symptoms of wheezing and physician-diagnosed asthma in the baseline investigation (2000) were associated with ASD 5 years later. Results from the second phase of the DBH-study (DBH-II) indicate PVC flooring to be one important source of airborne phthalates indoors, and that asthma and allergy prevalence are associated with phthalate concentrations in settled dust in the children's bedroom. Because these associations are among the few linking ASD with environmental variables, they warrant further and more extensive exploration.
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
- Autism spectrum disorders