Traffic Related Air Pollution Causes Autism in Infants
Autism is a behavioral and cognitive disorder generally seen in children. Both genetic and environmental factors are likely to contribute to the development of autism. But, little research has been done to examine the association of autism with residence-specific exposure to air pollution.
Heather Volk, an Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California, conducted a study for determining the susceptibility of autistic children to be affected by air pollution as compared to non-autistic children during infant stage.
Heather Volk and colleagues found out that if young kids were exposed to air pollutants in their early developing years, they become more susceptible for harboring autism disorders.
The researchers enrolled 524 children (279 with autism and 245 control children) in California for the purpose of study, the results of which were later published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
During the study, the location of the mother when pregnant as well as the location of the children in their first year of life was recorded. Important points such as vehicle emission, wind patterns, regional estimates of air pollutants, ozone percentage, nitrogen oxides and traffic volumes were assessed in both locations of pregnancy as well as infancy. The pollution scale was calibrated into below 25 percent and above 25 percent.
The scientists noted that children who were exposed to traffic related air pollution in early life had higher chances of developing autism in comparison to those who were not exposed to pollutants.
According to Prof. Volk, "The links between air pollution and autism risk were virtually unchanged after accounting for parents' race and ethnicity, educational attainment, and smoking status, as well as for the area's population density".
Prof. Volk mentioned that air pollution alone is not responsible for autism; genetic variations are also responsible for brain disorders and brain development. "Changes in air pollution over time cannot completely explain the entire disturbing rise in autism prevalence over the past two to three decades", he said.
High levels of mercury, cadmium, nickel, rubber, dyes and plastics and diesel exhausts also increased the probability of developing autism and other related ailments in children.
The research team said that the involvement of air pollutants in developing autistic disorders is on rise among children. "We're not saying that air pollution causes autism. We are saying it may be a risk factor for autism. Autism is a complex disorder and it's likely there are many factors contributing", they said.
The scientists highlighted the imperativeness of authorities in devising and formulating newer, effective and stringent anti-pollution laws.