Can High Levels of Air Pollution Play a Role in Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder continues to be on the rise, and researchers everywhere are cross-examining statistics to try and find the cause. A recent study showed a potential link between high levels of air pollution, and the risk of a mother having a child with autism.

This study, the first of its kind, examined U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data on the level of pollutants, with data from the Nurses’ Health Study. Researchers were looking for the levels of pollutants at a specific time and place of pregnancy and whether or not the child was later diagnosed with autism. The numbers showed that mothers who were exposed to the highest levels of diesel or mercury were twice as likely to have a child with autism as those in a clean air setting. High levels of lead, manganese and other hard levels played a role, however, the link was not as strong.

It is extremely important to note that the researchers are not concluding that mercury causes autism, as many parents are still concerned with mercury-contained vaccines being a cause. The study is more focused on the diesel levels.

Andrea Roberts, research associate with the Harvard School of Public Health, explained that “all of the chemicals studied are known neurotoxins… known to pass from mother to baby while a woman is pregnant…plausible that the ‘stuff’ the mother is taking in through the air is affecting her baby’s brain development.” [i]

This study opens doors for further examination of a link between air pollution and autism. According to the study, the next step is to take blood samples of both mothers and their children to see what chemicals are found, in order to further explore the risk of air pollution during pregnancy.


[i] “Huffington Post” Autism, Air Pollution Link Confirmed By First National Study. 18 Jun 2013. Web. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/18/autism-air-pollution-study_n_3443518.html?view=print&comm_ref=false>

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