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
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