Erin McCanlies, a research epidemiologist from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and colleagues used data from the Childhood Autism Risk from Genetics and the Environment study at the University of California, Davis, MIND Institute in Sacramento.
The researchers evaluated whether parents' exposure to chemicals at work might be associated with autism spectrum disorder in their children in a sample of 174 families -- 93 of which included children with autism spectrum disorder and 81 with children experiencing typical development.
Both parents took part in phone interviews, to assess exposures during three months prior to pregnancy, during the pregnancy, and up to either birth or weaning, if their child was breastfed.
Industrial hygienists independently assessed the parents' exposure levels for their particular job, McCanlies said.
"Overall, these results add to the mounting evidence that individual exposures may be important in the development of autism spectrum disorder. However, these results are preliminary and are not conclusive," McCanlies said in a statement. "Additional research is required to confirm and extend these initial findings."
The findings were published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.