Babies in the womb and during their first year are two to three times more likely to develop autism if exposed to high levels of traffic-related air pollution and poor air quality, according to a recent study.
Researchers at the Keck School of Medicine at USC published the study in the November issue of Archives of General Psychiatry. The study compared 279 children with autism and 245 control children with typical development in California.
Researchers used the mother’s address to estimate exposure to the highest levels of traffic-related air pollution as well as air quality during pregnancy and the first year of life.
Air quality was based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s measures of nitrogen dioxide, a highly reactive gas, and particulate matter, made up of very small particles and liquid droplets. According to the EPA, “nitrogen dioxide forms quickly from emissions from cars, trucks and buses, power plants, and off-road equipment.”
The EPA states that particulates are “made up of a number of components, including acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles.”
One in every 88 babies born in the U.S. has or will develop autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control, a 23 percent increase since 2009 and a 78 percent increase since 2007.
As recently as a few years ago, scientists and federal authorities maintained that most causes of autism were genetic and not environmental. However, while it is agreed that some children may be more genetically susceptible to developing autism than others, more and more studies are also linking environmental factors to the increase in autism.
Pollution, including chemicals and heavy metals, has been suspected as a cause of autism for years. The notion that fetuses and infants are far more susceptible to environmental toxins than older children and adults is also a well-accepted one by scientists.
Excerpts below from previous rootshed.com articles describe environmental factors that have been associated with autism.
Studies: environmental factors during pregnancy may increase risk of autism
“It has been known for years that environmental toxicants are especially harmful to the developing brains of fetuses and infants. A 1993 report by the National Academies Press, “Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children,” stated that young children are not “little adults,” and they detoxify and excrete chemicals very differently than adults.”
“The CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) warns, ‘Pregnant women and women of childbearing age should avoid exposure to lead because lead ingested by a mother can affect the unborn child.’”
Scientists say rise in autism may be linked to toxic chemicals in environment
“‘Today, to a mother carrying BPA, mercury, phthalates, and brominated flame retardants, is born a baby with 200 contaminants already in its cord blood,’ says Donna Ferullo, Director of Program Research at the Autism Society. ‘The developing brain is exquisitely sensitive to environmental exposures from conception through childhood.’”
“Irva Hertz-Piccotto, Chief of the Division of Environmental Health at U.C Davis and an author of the MIND study, says greater awareness, changes in diagnostic criteria, and inclusion of milder cases cannot account for the increase in autism, and it’s time to do more research on environmental factors.
‘The genes, more and more it’s becoming clear, are not going to explain the whole story,’ Hertz-Piccotto says. ‘What seems to be especially critical, however, is the prenatal environment and potential interactions between susceptibility genes and environmental chemicals.’
Autism advocate Lyn Redwood discusses mercury vaccine controversy, chelation, treatment and recovery
“Recent research shows that children with autism may be more vulnerable to environmental toxicants than neurotypical children. Many experts believe these toxicants could include heavy metals, pesticides, or chemicals.”
Interview with Dan Olmsted, Mark Blaxill: ‘Age of Autism-Mercury, Medicine, and a Manmade Epidemic’
“In their new book, The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and a Manmade Epidemic, Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill make a convincing case that the autism epidemic is largely environmental rather than genetic. They argue that mercury from pollution, commercial products, and vaccines has contributed greatly to the rise in autism over the last 70 years.”
Note: Canary Party Chairman Mark Blaxill will testify about autism in front of Congress Thursday, November 29 on behalf of advocacy group SafeMinds. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing about the federal response to autism over the past 10 years.
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