Barbara Demeneix is Professor and Head of Department in the Natural History Museum, Paris, France. She is an internationally recognized expert on thyroid function and endocrine disruption, aging and neural stem cells.
The author of over 150 scientific publications, she has coordinated large-scale European projects on different aspects of endocrine research, notably thyroid function and aging.
She has received numerous awards for her work, notably the CNRS Medal for Innovation in 2014 and the Mentorship Award for 2011 from the journal ‘Nature’.
In 2014 she was promoted to ‘Officer’ of the French Legion d’Honneur by the French government for her scientific achievements.
In 2014 she published ‘Losing our Minds: How Environmental Pollution Impairs Human Intelligence and Mental Health’ (OUP).
Environmental Chemicals and the increased incidence of Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Barbara Demeneix, Professor and Head of Dept., Sorbonne Universities, UMR CNRS MNHN 7221, Evolution of Endocrine Regulations, 75231 Paris, France.
We are witnessing an unprecedented and dramatic increase in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) incidence. Although, changes in diagnosis and awareness could have contributed to some of the increase, many authors consider that environmental factors, possibly exacerbating genetic susceptibilities, are implicated. Four main arguments support this hypothesis. First, increasing numbers of chemicals are found routinely in human amniotic fluid. These include, pesticides, plasticizers (such as phthalates, BPA), nitrates, perchlorate, antimicrobials (such as Triclosan), flame-retardants, surfactants and mercury (produced by fossil fuel burning). Second, many of these chemical categories can interfere with thyroid hormone signaling, a signaling pathway essential for orchestrating brain development. Third, prenatal exposure to some of these chemicals, such as organophosphate pesticides are already documented as being associated with increased ASD risk. Fourth, production of many of these chemicals has risen exponentially in the last few decades, continually increasing exposure. I will present and discuss data from my team showing that cocktails of these chemicals found in amniotic fluid can interfere with thyroid hormone signaling and brain development, affecting genes and developmental pathways (neuronal proliferation, migration) that are regularly associated with ASD.