How air pollution could increase risk of autism

pregnancy air pollution
Image credit: Sitaram Bhartia Maternity Program

Prenatal exposure to ambient air pollution was associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorder, a new study finds. Pregnant women in Vancouver who were exposed to the highest level of environmental nitric oxide, an airborne, traffic-related pollutant, were more likely to give birth to children later diagnosed with autism, the researchers say.

Lief Pagalan, lead author of the study and a member of the faculty of health sciences at Simon Fraser University, cautions that the study published [November 19] in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, showed only an association between prenatal exposure to nitric oxide and autism rates. It did not prove that air pollution caused autism.

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Pagalan and his colleagues analyzed the records of 129,436 children born in Vancouver from 2004 through 2009.

The odds of developing autism among children prenatally exposed to higher levels of PM2.5 (particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) were 1.04%, the odds of autism in children exposed to higher levels of nitrogen dioxide were 1.06%, and the odds of autism in children exposed to higher levels of nitric oxide were 1.07%.

Pagalan said that because there’s no cure for autism, “identifying environmental risk factors helps identify opportunities for prevention.”

Read full, original post: Prenatal exposure to air pollution linked to autism risk, study says

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