Traffic Pollution Linked to Autism

Along with a higher risk of asthma, children who are born and live their first year closer to major freeways also suffer a significantly elevated risk of autism. That's the conclusion of a new study by the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

"Compared to 245 California children who were not autistic, the researchers found that 279 autistic children were almost twice as likely to have been exposed to the highest levels of pollution while in the womb, and about three times as likely to have been exposed to that level during their first year of life.

They found that children exposed to the highest amount of "particulate matter' – a mixture of acids, metals, soil and dust – had about a two-fold increase in autism risk. That type of regional pollution is tracked by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Volk and her colleagues also saw a similar link between autism and nitrogen dioxide, which is in car, truck and other vehicle emissions.

'This is a risk factor that we can modify and potentially reduce the risk for autism,' wrote Dawson in an email to Reuters Health."

It's been estimated by the Centers for Disease Control that autism affects one in every 88 children born in the United States.

A new federal Particulate Matter standard is under consideration by the EPA and could be announced this year. It's been linked to other neurological diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimers.

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