Friday, July 19, 2013

Are there Links between Autism in Children and Exposure to Air Pollution?

Perinatal Air Pollutant Exposures and Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Children of Nurses’ Health Study II Participants(31 page pdf, Andrea L. Roberts, Kristen Lyall, Jaime E. Hart, Francine Laden, Allan C. Just , Jennifer F. Bobb, Karestan C. Koenen, Alberto Ascherio and Marc G. Weisskopf, Environmental Health Perspectives, Jun. 18, 2013)  

Also discussed here: Autism, Air Pollution Link Confirmed By First National Study(Catherine Pearson, The Huffington Post, Jun. 18, 2013)  

And here: Risk of autism is up to 50% higher in children exposed to traffic fumes and air pollution(Nicola Rowe, The Daily Mail, Jun. 18, 2013)

Today we review a paper that looks at the development of autism in children following exposure of their mothers to air pollution during pregnancy. Autism, found in 1 in 50 school age children, is significantly associated with exposure to 26 out of 180 pollutants or neurotoxins, of which diesel and mercury are twice as likely to produce this disorder. Boys are five times more likely to develop autism than girls.

pregnant woman

Key Quotes:

“Autism is found in 1 in 54 boys, compared to 1 in 252 girls…1 in 50 School-Age Children in the U.S. has an Autism Spectrum Disorder…20 to 30 Percent Of Children with an ASD Develop Epilepsy”

“Our findings raise concerns since, depending on the pollutant, 20 per cent to 60 per cent of the women in our study lived in areas where risk of autism was elevated”

“Twenty-six of 180 pollutants had a significant association between exposure and autism rates…Since so many [pollutants] were linked to higher autism rates, we can’t tell from the study which ones might be the causes.. these things [pollutants] are neurotoxins and they can pass from mother to the fetus while it’s still developing…some of these chemicals can cause genetic mutations – the type associated with autism.”

"Women who were exposed to the highest levels of diesel or mercury in the air were twice as likely to have a child with autism than women who lived in the cleanest parts of the sample,"

"All of the chemicals studied are known neurotoxins…They are also known to pass from mother to baby while a woman is pregnant. It's very plausible that the 'stuff' the mother is taking in through the air is affecting her baby's brain development."

"Our data is not good enough to know which thing in the air might actually be causing this [link], if it even is something in the air that is increasing the risk of autism…It might be that it's actually diesel that's [behind] the problem. We are skeptical about the possibility of mercury being causal in this way, through the air."

 “We observed significant positive linear trends between pollutant concentration and ASD for diesel particulate matter, lead, manganese, methylene chloride, mercury, and nickel”

 “Mother’s residential proximity to a major freeway during pregnancy has also been associated with ASD in a study including 304 ASD cases “
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