Study links autism with prenatal exposure to traffic pollution

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Babies exposed to air pollution in the womb are more likely to have autism (8 to 10% higher risk for babies at the 75th percentile of exposure) than those whose mothers spend pregnancy in clean air. Ozone and fine particulates had the strongest association with autism. These are the finding of the UCLA latest and largest of its kind study about levels of air pollutants, mostly related to vehicle traffic, and  their effects on pregnancy.

Autism is a spectrum of disorders ranging from a profound inability to communicate and mental disability to milder symptoms seen in Asperger’s syndrome. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that autism affects one in every 88 children born in the U.S., a 25% increase from 2006.

This new study was performed using data pertaining to over 85,000 children, from 1995 to 2006. It is critical because so far research on autism and exposure to chemicals has been limited. Studies from 2006 and 2010 found an association between autism and air pollutants from industries and other sources (pesticides, nutrition, flame retardants and parents’ occupational exposures) but the UCLA study is first to suggest a link between autism and ozone (level in LA is the highest in the nation and violates federal health standards an average of 137 days a year!).

Following a study by the advocacy organization Environmental Working Group that found an average of 200 industrial chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of 10 babies born in U.S. hospitals in 2004 and the availability of about 80,000 chemicals for industry use, most untested for toxicity, this is a wake-up call. Children’s health experts along with advocates urge Congress to pass the Safe Chemicals Act, which currently awaits a Senate vote.

Encouraging technology and progress is one thing but moving forward, we need to start evaluating what this is doing to us and put in place preventative measures and regulations to protect ourselves. Standards have been set before for air pollution in regards to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases so the same should be done here.

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* Up for some thought-sharing on this topic?  

– Even without studies to confirm the link between autism and air pollution, prior findings and common sense could have led the way to implementing precautionary principle types of regulations.

– Now that the link is established, preventative measures should be fast tracked.

. Do you think air pollution is reversible or controllable with regulations?

. Should measures be fast tracked for approval in an attempt to save more children from such conditions?

Let us know… 


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