Traffic Pollution Exposure Linked to Autism

One in 100 adults has autism, while data reads that the number of children with autism in the United States has increased by 78 percent. A new study reads that traffic pollution exposure during pregnancy is linked to autism, adding another piece to the puzzle.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 88 American children have an autism spectrum condition. Many of these children can’t take care of themselves. Researchers continue to solve a puzzle they’re still missing most of the pieces. A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found a link between air pollution in traffic and an increased risk of autism, compared to children who haven’t been exposed to environmental pollution.

“The public health implications of these findings are large because air pollution exposure is common and may have lasting neurological effects” reads the study by authors with the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Researchers compared 279 autistic children with 245 children without social and communications problems. The data found that children who were exposed to air pollution and other environmental causes were three times more likely to develop an autism-spectrum disorder. Also linked to a higher risk of autism, were diet, digestive tract problems, vaccine sensitivity and mercury poisoning.

“Although additional research to replicate these findings is needed”, the study shows air pollution exposure is a serious matter to take into account to prevent neurological effects. Researchers say that a 7 micrograms per cubic meter decrease of pollution will reduce the risk and would even lead to an increase of five months in life expectancy.
Dr. Heather E. Volk, lead author and assistant professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, believes “there is evidence that the immune system might be associated with autism, and pollution affects these same pathways”.

However, other field experts don’t think the study is actual proof that exposure to traffic pollution actually caries a higher risk of autism. “As much as it would be perhaps attractive to find a single cause for autism, the reality is there are many different causes” said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York.

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