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Autism Research Program

Director's Corner

   Lisa Croen, PhD
We are proud to announce that the Division of Research has received two Environmental Influences on Childhood Health Outcomes (ECHO) research program grants from the National Institute of Health to examine environmental exposures in young children.  ECHO grants utilize existing research study cohort populations around the nation to investigate how exposure to a range of environmental factors in early development — from conception through early childhood —influences the health of children and adolescents.

The ECHO ASD-ER  includes participants from the Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation (EARLI) study, and will focus on children with older siblings who were diagnosed with autism, since they already present a much higher rate of developing autism (roughly one in five are diagnosed, compared to the national average of one in 68). Our team here at DOR and our collaborators at nine other sites across the country will use shed baby teeth to examine whether environmental factors play a role in further increasing that risk. Findings will be useful in determining the mechanisms underlying autism, which continues to prove its complexity. Once mechanisms are better understood, more effective prevention and treatment strategies can be developed

DOR’s ECHO ELEGANT study will examine how exposures to environmental chemicals during pregnancy may influence the risk of obesity and neurodevelopmental disorders in children. Investigators at Kaiser will focus on in utero exposures to endocrine-disrupting chemicals like perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs), polybrominated ethers (PBDEs), and organophosphate flame retardants (OPFRs), which are found in many common household and personal products, plastics, and furniture. Women who participated in two existing Kaiser Permanente pregnancy cohorts — the Pregnancy and Environment Lifestyle Study (PETALS) and the Kaiser Permanente Research Bank Pregnancy Cohort (KPRB-PC) — will be invited to join the new study, along with their young children. The PETALS and KPRB-PC studies have already collected blood and urine samples from women during pregnancy, which will be used to measure endocrine-disrupting chemicals; their children will be evaluated at age 4 with detailed examinations and saliva samples for genetic analysis. Results from the study may help to inform national environmental and public health agencies regarding future policies to further regulate the production of these chemicals and inform the public regarding the restriction of their use.

Please contact us at or at 1-866-279-0733 for more information.

Lisa A. Croen, PhD
Director, Autism Research Program