Study: Traffic-Related Air Pollution Associated With Children’s Autism
Exposure to traffic-related air pollution during pregnancy is associated with autism in children, according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
For the study, researchers from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California examined 500 children -- mostly boys -- living in Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco. Half of the children studied had autism.
The researchers used birth certificates and residential histories to determine where the children's mothers lived during the time of their pregnancy and compared the locations with Environmental Protection Agency data on air pollution.
The researchers wrote, "Our study found that local estimates of traffic-related air pollution and regional measures of [fine matter, particulate matter] or nitrogen dioxide at residences were higher in children with autism."
Heather Volk -- lead researcher and assistant professor at the Keck School of Medicine -- said, "We've known for a long time that air pollution is bad for our lungs, and especially for children. We're now beginning to understand how air pollution may affect the brain."
Air Pollution Not a Definitive Answer
The researchers said that the study does not provide a definitive answer to why more children are being diagnosed with autism in recent years.Alycia Halladay -- a senior director for environmental and clinical sciences for Autism Speaks -- said, "Researchers now know that there is not one single environmental factor that causes autism," adding, "In fact, there are most likely many different factors working together with genetics to cause a diagnosis" (Abram, San Jose Mercury News, 11/26). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.