Researchers think they've found a link between prenatal and early childhood exposure to air pollution and autism. The findings, by the University of Pittsburgh, are considered preliminary, The Allegheny Front reports.
Principal investigator Evelyn Talbott’s team interviewed more than 200 families with children on the autism spectrum in western Pennsylvania.
Autism diagnoses have risen sharply, about eight-fold in 20 years. Talbott says research into other potential causes, like genetics, is inconclusive. So, Pitt started looking at environmental factors, like air pollution from industry and transportation.
“There are more and more cars on the road,” Talbott says. “There are many chemicals out there that we should look at.”
Talbott’s team evaluated kids exposed to certain pollutants in utero to up to two years of age. They found autism levels up to twice as high as in children without those exposures. The researchers honed in on pollutants known to disrupt children’s endocrine systems and neurological development.
The Pitt study builds on three others that looked at children in North Carolina and West Virginia, California, and the U.S., and have similar results.
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