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Exposure to traffic fumes and industrial air pollution can dramatically increase a mother’s chances of having a child with autism
Exposure to traffic fumes, industrial air pollution and other environmental toxins can dramatically increase a mother’s chances of having a child with autism.
Researchers studied insurance claims from around 100 million people in the U.S., and used congenital malformations in boys as an indicator for parental exposure to environmental toxins.
Several studies have already shown a link between air pollution and autism, but this latest study published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology is one of the largest to put the two together.
‘Autism appears to be strongly correlated with rate of congenital malformations of the genitals in males across the country. This gives an indicator of environmental load and the effect is surprisingly strong,’ study author Andrey Rzhetsky from the University of Chicago.
The report looked at birth defects associated with parental exposure to pollution and found a 1% increase in the defects corresponded to a 283% increase in autism.
Autism is a developmental disorder that interferes with social and communication skills.
Not just genetic: Airborne toxins such as pesticides are now believed to also cause autism
It covers a ‘spectrum’ of conditions that may be mild or very severe, requiring round-the-clock care.
The scientists found a clear link between being pregnant somewhere with high levels of pollution and having an autistic child.
The findings published this week in the PLOS Computational Biology Journal were culled from health records of over 100 million Americans in an effort to shift research from almost exclusively genetic to include environmental factors.
Essentially what happens is during pregnancy there are certain sensitive periods where the fetus is very vulnerable to a range of small molecules – from things like plasticizers, prescription drugs, environmental pesticides and other things,’ said study author Andrey Rzhetsky.
‘Some of these small molecules essentially alter normal development,’ the University of Chicago professor of genetic medicine and human genetics continued. ‘It’s not really well known why, but it’s an experimental observation.’
The defects were especially noticeable in boys’ reproductive systems, Rzhetsky noted.
Women living in the top fifth of locations with the highest levels of pollutants were twice as likely to give birth to a child with autism as those in areas with the lowest levels
Women living in the top fifth of locations with the highest levels of these pollutants were twice as likely to give birth to a child with autism as those in areas with the lowest levels.
Women with the highest levels of exposure to these substances were about 50 per cent more likely to have a child who develops autism.
Boys are in any case much more likely to have the disorder.
Air pollutants contain many toxins that are known to affect neurological function and fetal development.
One in 88 children suffers from autism, and diagnoses in boys greatly outnumber those in girls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No clear cause has been established for the disorder.
‘The environment may play a very significant role in autism, and we should be paying more attention to it,’ said Rzhetsky. ‘We should definitely take into account environmental factors.’
PUBLISHED: 16:05 GMT, 15 March 2014 | UPDATED: 16:31 GMT, 15 March 2014
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2581663/Growing-evidence-autism-linked-pollution-babies-283-likely-suffer-condition-compared-birth-defects.html#ixzz2wDAPLcpA
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