Friday, December 14, 2012

Babies near Traffic and the Risk of Autism

Traffic-Related Air Pollution, Particulate Matter, and Autism(Abstract, Heather E. Volk, Fred Lurmann, Bryan Penfold; Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Rob McConnell, Arch Gen Psychiatry, Nov 2012)

Also discussed here: Autism and early exposure to traffic pollution linked(Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 26, 2012)

And here: Autism Risk for Developing Children Exposed to Air Pollution: Infant Brain May Be Affected by Air Quality(Science Daily, Nov. 26, 2012)

And here: Older dads pass down more mutations: the implications(Rosie Mestel Los Angeles Times, Aug. 24, 2012)

And here: A direct characterization of human mutation based on microsatellites(Abstract,James X Sun, Agnar Helgason, Gisli Masson, Sigríður Sunna Ebenesersdóttir, Heng Li, Swapan Mallick, Sante Gnerre, Nick Patterson, Augustine Kong, David Reich & Kari Stefansson, Nature Genetics, Aug. 23, 2012)

New findings on the causes of autism were published recently with a focus on the environment and genetics as they affect the fetus and new-borns although uncertainty exists in the research community. One study in California found that exposure of babies to nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants found near roads with heavy traffic was linked to three times higher incidences of autism. Another study indicated that the mutations that occur in older fathers which double over a typical lifetime also lead to genetic changes associated with autism in their offspring. As people live longer, “old age diseases” such as autism become more a concern and more needs to be done to reduce the threats at the start of life, starting with keeping residences with mothers further away from traffic. DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid)  

Key Quotes:

“Children with autism were more likely to live at residences that had the highest quartile of exposure to traffic-related air pollution, during gestation …and during the first year of life…, compared with control children”

“Exposure to traffic-related air pollution, nitrogen dioxide, PM2.5, and PM10 during pregnancy and during the first year of life was associated with autism”

 "From studies conducted in the lab, we know that we can breathe in tiny particles and they can produce inflammation…Particles have varied composition, and there are many chemicals that can bind to them. The components of these particles could be hazardous to the brain."

 "We know that traffic-related air pollution can contribute to many other diseases and conditions, and it is biologically plausible it also has a role in pathways of autism”

“older men pass on more new mutations to their offspring than do younger men, a fact that could help explain higher rates of disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and others in kids born of older fathers….. the mutation rate in fathers doubles between age 20 and age 58”

 “We are much more concerned about the well-being of our children than the survival of our species…what poses risks to the next generation may actually be very important for the survival of our species going forward.”

“Because deleterious mutations are much more common than beneficial ones, evolution under this relaxed selection will inevitably lead to a decline in the mean fitness of the population.”
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