Intolerant to chemicals? It could affect your children too.

Mothers with chemical intolerances are two to three times more likely than other women to have a child with autism spectrum disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a new study shows.

The medical study, led by primary author Lynne P. Heilbrun, M.P.H., autism research coordinator for the Department of Family and Community Medicine, was published in The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

People who are chemically intolerant often have serious reactions to common chemicals, and some become too sick carry out routine functions. Chemical intolerance affects about 10 to 30 percent of the U.S. population. Developmental disorders such as autism and attention deficit disorder affect 1 in 6 children in the United States.

The study was based on maternal responses to the Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory, or QEESI, a 50-question survey used by physicians worldwide to diagnose chemical intolerance.

“We are most concerned about how vulnerable the children with ADHD and autism were to environmental exposures,” said Heilbrun. “Mothers reported that their children were significantly more sensitive to everyday exposures such as engine exhaust, gasoline, smoke, fragrances and cleaners than their neurotypical peers.”

The children reportedly also were more sensitive to adverse effects from infections, medications, chemicals, foods and allergens. They were more likely to have had nausea, headaches, dizziness or trouble breathing when exposed to smoke, nail polish remover, engine exhaust, gasoline, air fresheners or cleaning agents.

“Physicians have the opportunity right now to become proactive in helping mothers protect their children from neurological disorders plaguing U.S. families,” Heilbrun said, urging doctors to use QEESI to assess patients for potential chemical intolerances.

The authors also recommended all mothers and pregnant women avoid potentially harmful chemicals such as pesticides, solvents, combustion products, and chemicals used during construction and remodeling.

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