Yesterday the Archives of General Psychology published, in its online archive, a study that found exposure to air-pollution during pregnancy and during the first year of life is associated with autism.
The retrospective study used data obtained about children with autism and control children with typical development who were enrolled in the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment study in California. Addresses from birth certificates and those reported from a residential history questionnaire were plotted against line-source air quality model. Regional air pollutant measures were based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality System data.
Regional exposure measures of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter were also found to be associated with autism during gestation and during the first year of life.
“In particular for traffic pollution we found children exposed to highest amounts of pollution relative to the lowest were at a two-to-threefold increased risk for autism,” says Heather Volk, a researcher for the Keck School of Medicine of USC and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Not the first study to find correlation
In 2011 the Department of Preventive Medicine, Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, Keck School of Medicine studied maternal residence and autism and found that living near a freeway was associated with autism.
A 2006 study also found autistic children were 50 percent more likely to have been born around contaminated air.
Autism rates increasing
The rates of U.S. diagnosis of autism, Asperger syndrome or a related disorder increased significantly according to a 2012 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to studies by the CDC and other experts, there has been a 78 percent increase in autism diagnoses in the past decade. See video.
Correlation does not denote causation
Scientists are quick to point out that they have not discovered the causative link between air-pollution and autism. Still, it’s difficult to imagine that air-pollution could yield anything but negative consequences to a developing fetus and child. Correlation does not prove causation, yet risks and consequences that we do not completely understand surely exist.
Study finds link between autism and air pollution
Archives of General Psychology
Amy Lou Jenkins is the award-winning author of ‘Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting.’ She writes from Wauwatosa, WI. Visit her at www.AmyLouJenkins.com.