Autism May Be Caused by Air Pollution


Autism may be caused by air pollution, according to recent research. The Harvard study shows that pregnant women who inhale smog are twice as more likely to have a child with the mental disability. There is hope that this new research will help to unlock some of the biggest mysterious surrounding the disorder.

This is certainly not the first time that autism and air pollution have been linked. The same was stated in June 2013, which backed up claims made in previous years. The 2013 research found that pregnant women who lived in some of the most polluted areas had double the risk of having a baby with the disorder compared to woman who lived in areas with the least pollution.

Some of the pollutants in the 2013 study included lead, mercury, manganese and diesel fuel. In this most recent study the smog is from smoke stacks and vehicles. Unfortunately, studies still have not shown how the pollutants cause autism spectrum disorder (ASD), just that there is a link. Scientists believe that it happens due to the brain becoming inflamed. This finding is based on animal tests.

From the 2013 results, scientists hoped that there would be new studies looking into who the amount of pollutants and metals in a pregnant woman’s and newborn child’s blood. Marc Weisskopf, researcher for the June study and Harvard School of Public Health associate professor, wanted to show the evidence that certain pollutants are more likely to cause ASD.

This has not quite happened yet, but there is another study to show that autism may be caused by air pollution. Weisskopf was part of this new study, and said that the main risks were in the third trimester of the pregnancy. Knowing this could help to understand the disorder more, including the cause. He said that those who had the highest exposure rate were more at risk of children being born on the spectrum.

Despite previous studies, Heather Volk from the University of Southern California Children’s Hospital explained that this is the first time a link throughout the United States has been examined. She has led earlier studies that found a connection between the disorder and pollution, with one of those being in 2010 and one of the earliest to find the link.

In 2010, one out of every 68 children were found to be on the spectrum, which had increased considerably from 10 years previous where the rate was on in 150 children. However, experts could not agree on whether the results were linked to something else or whether it was due to the greater awareness in 2010.

The results did lead to scientists wanting to look into environmental links. Up until this point, autism was believed to be mainly a genetic link but researchers agreed that the change in the genes could not happen so quickly in such a short space of time.

While more research is needed, researchers believe that the tiny particles can disrupt the development of the brain. The small contaminants can penetrate the brain cells easily.

The good news is that the Environmental Protection Agency is looking to improve the air quality to reduce other health issues linked to pollution. Asthma, cardiovascular disease and lung cancer are all linked to poor air quality, and States have another six years to meet the new standards. It could be just in time as there is now strong evidence to support that autism may be caused by air pollution.

By Alexandria Ingham