Autism linked to PCBs (thank you, Monsanto)

  • Published on August 23rd, 2016

By Jeremy Bloom

We’re still a long way from finding out what causes autism, but a new study seems to have identified one piece of the puzzle: Exposure to a class of chemicals called PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyls).

The researchers were able to examine records of women who had had blood drawn during pregnancy to assess whether there were PCBs present (the tend to stay in the system and build up after being ingested), and correlate PCB presences with later Autism diagnosis.

It was determined that two compounds in particular — PCB 138/158 and PCB 153 — stood out as being significantly linked with autism risk. Children with the highest in utero levels (exposure during their mother’s pregnancy) of these two forms of PCBs were between 79 and 82 percent more likely to have an autism diagnosis than those found to be exposed to the lowest levels. High levels of two other compounds, PCB 170 and PCB 180, were also associated with children being approximately 50 percent more likely to be diagnosed — again, this is relative to children with the lowest prenatal exposure to these PCBs.

They also found that lower exposure increased the risk of children being diagnosed with intellectual disabilities.

PCBs are a potent neurotoxin and were banned in 1979, but were so widely used in the previous 50 years that they remain ubiquitous – from spilled PCBs that still contaminate the Hudson River, to insulation in electrical transformers all over the world.

Who manufactured PCBs? Before they switched over to agribusiness (at the behest of a corporate makeover consultant named Mitt Romney), the largest US PCB manufacturer was our old friend Monsanto.

Think Progress reported:

In a 1970 internal memo, agrochemical giant Monsanto alerted its development committee to a problem: Polychlorinated Biphenyls—known as PCBs—had been shown to be a highly toxic pollutant.

PCBs—sold under the common name Aroclor—were also huge business, raking in some $10 million in profits. Not wanting to lose all of these profits, Monsanto decided to continue its production of Aroclor while alerting its customers to its potentially adverse effects. Monsanto got out of the PCB business altogether in 1977—two years before the chemicals were banned by the EPA—but just because the company no longer produces the toxic substances doesn’t mean it can forget about them completely.


“We know Aroclors [PCBs] are toxic but the actual limit has not been precisely defined,” stated one document, dated September 20, 1955…

Monsanto has faced a number of lawsuits over PCB contamination, including lawsuits by the cities of Long Beach, PortlandSeattle, Berkeley, Spokane, San Diego, San Jose, and Oakland.

About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.
  • SageThinker

    Fuck you Monsanto. You exposed my unborn baby to chemicals that you knew were dangerous and child could have autism because of YOU, you selfish greedy lying evil sick psychopathis. Monsanto needs to NOT EXIST ANYMORE. It is an evil presence in the world doing evil still today. They knew what they were doing and did it anyway. They are pure evil.


      Dearest Sage – my heart goes out to you and your family. Don’t let fear, rage and the drivel these droglodites (sp?) spew stop you from doing right by your family and protecting them from harm…chemically, and psychologically. I have watched you fight the good fight but it is futile. Personally, I will no longer engage with “them”. They refuse to put the glass down….Wish we could connect on FB – Stephanie <3


      Dearest Sage – My heart goes out to you and your family. But please do not let fear (for your unborn), rage (against the behemoth a.k.a. Big Everything) and the constant drivel from the troglodytes stop you from protecting you and your family from the psychological and chemical poison “they” spew and sell. I gave up long ago trying to reason with them on FB and elsewhere. They won’t put the glass down and I accept that. Hope that we can connect somehow soon – Stephanie

    • Peter Olins

      From your comment, it sounds as though the mother of your child was exposed to unusually high levels of PCBs. I’m very sorry to hear that. If it’s not too personal a question, how did this happen? If your child does turn out to have ASD, I strongly encourage you to focus on nurturing it, and not add the extra emotional burden of believing that it has been “poisoned” (which, of course, you cannot prove).

      As you know, the overall incidence of autism spectrum disorder appears to have risen substantially in recent years, and yet, exposure to the general public to PCBs has been decreasing over the past several decades. Do you have any ideas why there appears to be a lack of correlation between the two?

      • SageThinker

        Don’t need your “advice” slimeball Monsanto advocate… for those who don’t know, Peter is a frequent pro-Monsanto troll.

        • IJR

          Are you saying correlation implies causation?

    • IJR

      Focusing on blame instead of dealing properly with a problem is not what adults do.