Current State-of-the-Science on Environmental Factors in Autism -University Lecture Series - Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Current State-of-the-Science on Environmental Factors in Autism

2012-2013 Distinguished Lecture Series in Environmental Science, Technology, and Policy: Environment and Health

Thursday, March 21, 2013 | 4:30 pm, Porter Hall #100 (Gregg Hall)

The causes of autism or the broader category of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are diverse and include both genetic and non-inherited factors or exposures. Although a major focus of research has been the hunt for ASD genes, which has uncovered links to rare syndromes and potential common mechanisms for perturbed brain development, the recent period has witnessed a rapid proliferation of clues about environmental contributions. These are critical to the discovery of interventions that can reduce risk or lessen the severity of the symptoms. This presentation will review the state-of-the-science on a wide array of modifiable factors: pesticides, metals, air pollution, vinyl flooring, fertility treatments and maternal medications, metabolic conditions and acute illnesses. Also covered will be recent work characterizing biologically-based phenotypic subsets within the autism spectrum. Other concepts to be discussed are the multifactorial nature of autism causality, critical time windows, and the relationship of genetic and environmental factors.

Dr. Hertz-Picciotto, Professor at the University of California Davis MIND Institute is an environmental epidemiologist with over 200 scientific publications addressing environmental exposures, including metals, pesticides, air contaminants and endocrine disrupting compounds, their interactions with nutrition, and their effects on pregnancy, the newborn, and child development. She is Director for CHARGE (CHildhood Autism Risk from Genes and Environment), the first large, comprehensive population-based study of environmental factors in autism, and MARBLES (Markers of Autism Risk in Babies – Learning Early Signs) to search for early markers that will predict autism, starting in pregnancy. She is also Director of the Northern California Center for the National Children’s Study. She has served on scientific advisory panels for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Toxicology Program, the California Air Resources Board and Proposition 65 committee, and the NIH Interagency Coordinating Committee on Autism Research. She has been President of two major professional epidemiology societies, and chaired two National Academy of Sciences/Institute of Medicine Panels: Agent Orange and Vietnam Veterans, and more recently, Breast Cancer and the Environment. In 2011, she received the Goldsmith Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology.