Tuesday, June 18 2013, 06:41 PM MDT
Air Pollution and Autism
(CBS) A large new national study suggests there is a link between exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and autism.
Gleny Duran wants to know why her eight year old son Angel has autism. “Is it something that I'm eating, is it the air? Is it genetic?” Duran wonders.
Doctors don't know exactly what causes the neurological disorder, but now more research points to the environment playing a role. In the first national study of its kind, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health looked at 25-thousand women and found those exposed to high levels of air pollution while pregnant were twice as likely to have a child with autism.
“We need to be concerned about levels of air pollution in our environment and we need to do everything we can to reduce ambient air pollution exposures,” Dr. Alycia Halladay, the senior director of Clinical and Environmental Sciences with Autism Speaks, says.
Exposure to diesel, lead and other pollutants are known to affect a baby's brain development.
One in 88 children has autism in the United States. Experts say the findings do not mean that pollution causes autism, but may be another risk factor. “One of many different risk factors both genetic and environmental. And what we really need to better understand is how these many risk factors. How they interact together,” Dr. Halladay says.
Gleny lives in Manhattan and says she is concerned about the air quality. “It's full of pollution so it's definitely going to be something that's in our mind,” she says. But she says the city also offers many programs for children with special needs, so moving really isn't an option.
Researchers say the results are cause for concern because between 20 and 60 percent of the women in the study lived in areas where pollutants were a problem.