Air Pollution May Have Links to Autism Disorders

Although Autism disorders do not have one specific cause, doctors have recently found reason to believe that Autism could possibly be linked to pollutants in the air, in combination with genetics.

A group of doctors in Provo, Utah, have noticed trends of the disorder among particular counties with exposure to metals and exhaust pollutants. The results were unsettling because Utah has one of the highest pollution rates, as well as one of the highest rates of Autism disorders in the nation. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, one in 47 Utah children has Autism, which is greater than the national average. Doctors are extremely concerned that this rate will stay at this number, or even increase, unless immediate action is taken to lessen the heavy presence of smog and improve the quality of the environment.

(photo credit: Sergey Panychev)

According to a medical study from Harvard University, “air pollution contains many toxicants known to affect neurological function and to have effects on the fetus”. Exposure to harsh metallic pollutants, such as diesel, lead, and mercury, has a strong correlation to Autism rates, according to the study. There is evidence that these metals have the ability to mutate genes as fetuses are developing in the womb.

The University of Chicago has also released the results of a recent study, and they have discovered that congenital malformations in boys proved to be a great indicator of parental exposure to harsh pollutants. According to a statement from the University, “Autism appears to be strongly correlated with [the] 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”. Studies have shown that boys are much more susceptible to pollutants while they are in the womb, as opposed to girls, when it comes to Autism.

Utah state officials are aware of the issue and know that bold decisions need to be made in order to help alleviate the pollution levels, such as establishing better mass transit, and focusing on anti-smoking campaigns. Utah residents will need to make it a significant priority to make better decisions in regards to the environment. More studies need to be done on this topic, particularly to establish if one particular pollutant is the link to Autism disorders, over the others.

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