Hello again! Thanksgiving is out and Christmas and the holiday season are in the air, but do you know what else may be "in the air?" Autism.
While the puzzle of autism is still far from complete, there is a new research study conducted by University of Southern California (USC) and Children's Hospital Los Angeles scientists showing that air pollution from traffic may increase the risk of autism in infants and young children. Air pollution's harmful effects on the lungs of adults and children, who are naturally more vulnerable, is nothing new. However, these studies show that air pollution can have long term effects on the brain as well, which can cause neurological disorders such as autism.
In the Air?
The study, "Traffic Related Air Pollution, Particulate Matter, and Autism" shows that during pregnancy and the first year of life the risk of autism increases twice as much if the baby is exposed to traffic induced air pollution. In the study, such factors as how close mothers live to freeways and the direction the wind blows are considered. It found that people who live closer to freeways (within 1,000 feet) are more likely to have children with autism. The study also found that particles made up of road dust and gas emissions as well as nitrogen dioxide from heaters and tobacco smoke can be detrimental to children's health. This study builds on another study conducted earlier in 2012 by Volk and colleagues from USC and the University of California, Davis.
Though it's not set in stone, the evidence these studies provide are helping build the case for the role that environmental factors play in the onset of autism. Here's a link to the study's abstract for anyone who is interested in reading it here. Hopefully we will see more research very soon as scientists take a closer look at our environment and its effects on autism.