CBL Chemical Biology Lab

Autism Spectrum Disorders


In collaboration with:

  • Child Neuropsychiatry Unit, University Hospital AOUS of Siena, Italy
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, University Hospital AOUS of Siena,  Italy
  • Clinical Physiology Institute (IFC-CNR), National Research Council of Italy, Lecce Section, &  Division of Neonatology, Perrino Hospital, Brindisi, Italy

ASDs are a complex group of neurodevelopment disorders, still poorly understood, steadily rising in frequency and treatment refractory. Extensive research has been so far unable to explain the etiology of this condition, whereas a growing body of evidence suggests the involvement of environmental factors. Phthalates, given their extensive use and their persistence, are ubiquitous environmental contaminants. They are endocrine disruptors suspected to interfere with neurodevelopment. Therefore they represent interesting candidate risk factors for ASDs pathogenesis. We evaluated the levels of the primary and secondary metabolites of DEHP [di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate] in children with ASDs. Our findings demonstrate for the first time an association between phthalates exposure and ASDs, thus suggesting a previously unrecognized role for these ubiquitous environmental contaminants in the pathogenesis of autism.


Di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate and autism spectrum disorders.Testa, C.; Nuti, F.; Hayek, J.; De Felice, C.; Chelli, M.; Rovero, P.; Latini, G.; Papini, A. M. ASN neuro 2012, 4, 223–229.