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Prenatal Exposure to Air Pollution Linked to Autism Risk, Study Says

airpollution autism310Prenatal 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.Autism spectrum disorder, a developmental disability, is characterized by problems with communication and social interaction with accompanying repetitive behavior patterns.

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 Monday 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.

Experts emphasize that the exact causes of autism remain unknown, and some say the researchers in this study did not analyze every potential risk factor.

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

“We analyzed air pollution data in Vancouver over the same period to assess air pollution exposures in the pregnant woman,” he said. “Their children were followed up for at least 5 years to see if they were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.”

Overall, about 1% of the kids were diagnosed with autism by age 5, the researchers found. They compared autism rates among the children of women who had been exposed to the least amount of air pollution during pregnancy against rates among the children of women exposed to the most.

Studies in the United States, including one in Los Angeles County, have shown that living close to a highway where air quality is poor may be a possible trigger of autism, yet three European studies — including one that looked at Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy — have not proved an association, the authors of the new study noted.

Pagalan said the causes of autism are not fully known. “They’re complicated and have many factors but researchers recognize that genetics and environmental factors both play a role,” he said. Experts say that any association between air pollution and autism is small at best.

Read the full story on the CNN website.
Source: CNN | Prenatal Exposure to Air Pollution Linked to Autism Risk, Study Say, https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/19/health/air-pollution-autism-vancouver-study/index.html | © 2018 Cable News Network

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