Apr 02, 2014 Pregnant? Avoid Plastic Containers! Here are more reasons to avoid plastic containers, particularly if you're pregnant: The hormone-mimicking chemicals that can leach into your food and drink can cause your baby to be less smart or even autistic, according to a new study of 100 million U.S. medical records. Although autism and intellectual disability have genetic components, environmental causes are thought to play a role. To identify potential environmental links, a team of University of Chicago scientists analyzed an insurance claims dataset that covered nearly one third of the U.S. population. The researchers used male genital malformations as an indicator of parental exposure to toxins, because male fetuses are particularly sensitive to harmful manmade chemicals such as sex hormone analogs [BPA and other chemicals used to make plastic], environmental lead, medications and other synthetic molecules. Parental exposure to these toxins is thought to explain a large portion of congenital reproductive malformations, such as micropenis, hypospadias (urethra on underside of the penis), undescended testicles and others. “Autism appears to be strongly correlated with rate of congenital malformations of the genitals in males across the country,” said study author Andrey Rzhetsky, professor of genetic medicine and human genetics. “This gives an indicator of environmental load and the effect is surprisingly strong.” The study was published in the March 13 issue of PLOS Computational Biology.