Women who are exposed to high levels of air pollution during pregnancy might be twice as likely to have a child with autism, according to a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health that’s published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
This finding is particularly impactful this time of year: Summer weather leads to higher levels of ozone in the atmosphere, damaging both population health and the environment, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
This is the first national study to correlate air pollution and autism, lead researcher Andrea Roberts, PhD, said.
Now, she said, there’s now enough evidence that parents should be concerned about the pollution-autism link. Still, there’s not that much pregnant women can do to dramatically cut their pollution exposure.
“But there have been things that have been associated with having a healthier baby and possibly lowered risk of having a child with autism: taking prenatal vitamins, eating foods with healthy fats, like nuts and low-mercury fish, avoiding smoking, and trying to maintain a healthy weight while pregnant,” Roberts said.
“Also, it is probably a good idea not to use pesticides in or around the home and to use nontoxic cleaning and personal products while pregnant.”
Heavy metals in the air – lead, mercury, manganese and arsenic – and diesel particulates were the most strongly correlated to autism in children.
But because the measures of pollution exposure in the study were based on reported EPA pollutant concentrations, researchers can’t tell how much of these pollutants were actually absorbed into each mother’s body.
Researchers also can’t pinpoint which pollutants cause the most harm; they can only show an association, Roberts said.
Past studies have associated air pollution with a host of other health risks, including an elevated risk of dying from any cause, heart disease, lung disease, heart attack and stroke.
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Thanks to Wunderground for this article.