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New Autism Cause: Freeways?

Traffic congestion

A possible link between air pollutants and autism has been discovered

While the debate about vaccines and their link to autism has died down significantly, get ready for a new one to flare up.

Researchers at the Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles are warning that environmental factors could possibly play a role in autism. New findings seem to indicate that babies who lived within 1,000 feet of a freeway (but not a major road) were found to be at risk because of their exposure to pollutants inherent to that type of throughway.

The study, which was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), examined 304 children with autism and 259 without. Likewise, a similar study in 2006 in the San Francisco area found that babies born to women exposed to industrial air contaminants while they were pregnant were 50 percent more likely to have autism. Autism is a developmental disorder that affects the brain’s normal development of social and communications skills, and appears in the first few years of life.

The EHP study also concluded that further examination of the air pollutants is warranted.

Does this mean expectant parents living near a freeway should move? Or is this just something else to add to the list of possible causes that can be near impossible, or just plain impossible to avoid, like vaccines, hereditary factors and specific heavy metals?

“The study isn’t saying exposure to air pollution causes autism. But it could be one of the factors that are contributing to its increase,” Helen Volk, the lead researcher in the study, told the Los Angeles Times.

How much do you worry or think about about the possible causes of autism? What would you do if you were pregnant and lived near a freeway?

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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