A chief underwriting officer of one of the largest P/C insurers once said to us, “I don’t know what the next asbestos will be, but it will be whatever causes autism.”

Executive Summary

As of today, there is no environmental driver of autism spectrum disorders with strong enough science to support litigation, according to research by Praedicat. But insurance underwriters still worry about commercial products that may be identified as ASD triggers for genetically susceptible populations in the future. To replace "underwriting by Google" activities that can easily lead them astray, Praedicat executives identify the most likely candidates emerging in early stage research and also dispose of some popular theories.

The rate of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has increased dramatically since the 1960s, attributable to at least three factors: a change in diagnostic practices, increased awareness and an increase in incidence. The increased incidence might mean that autism is the signature disease of some environmental exposure that has become widespread since the 1960s.

As of today, there is no environmental driver with strong enough science to support litigation. But given the size of the risk and the concerns expressed by our CUO friend, it is useful to know what research is at an early stage and could—though at low probability today—ultimately support claims.

The causes of ASD are a subject of immense scientific and popular controversy.

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