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Welcome to the University of Pittsburgh, Graduate School of Public Health web site for the Research "Study of Environmental Risk Factors for Childhood Autism".

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities that become evident early in a child's life and cause social, communication, and behavioral challenges. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that approximately 1 in 88 children born in the United States have been diagnosed with ASDs. The causes and contributing factors of ASDs are poorly understood, but genetic, environmental, and biological factors are thought to be involved. ASDs are an important public health concern.

The Research Study of Environmental Risk Factors for Childhood Autism is a multi-year study which began in 2010. It is being conducted in southwestern Pennsylvania (Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland Counties) by the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health. The aim of the study is to help identify environmental and other factors that may put children at risk for developing conditions within the ASDs.

This research study involves the parents of children born between 2006-2009 who are diagnosed within the ASDs and the parents of children who have not been diagnosed within the ASDs. Approximately 750 parents will be asked to participate in this study over the next 3 years.

Families who take part in the research study will be interviewed by telephone. Our trained staff will ask the same questions of all families to determine if they have experienced similar environmental exposures during pregnancy and while their children were infants and toddlers. We will then attempt to determine if there have been substantial differences in environmental and other exposures in children with an autism spectrum disorder compared to children without ASDs. We hope that the results of this study will help lead to a better understanding of the role of environmental factors in ASDs.

Funded by The Heinz Endowments
WTAE - Pitt study examines possible correlation between autism, environmental risks
WPXI - Pitt researchers examine possible link between environmental risks and autism