Pollution May Increase Autism Risk

Article excerpt

Byline: Bloomberg News

Exposure to air pollution from cars and trucks during pregnancy and a baby's first year may be associated with an increased risk of autism, a study found.

The study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, compared 279 autistic children with 245 children who didn't have the social and communications disorder. Researchers said the children who lived in homes with the highest estimated levels of air pollution from traffic were three times more likely to be autistic than those with the lowest predicted exposure.

The cause of autism is unknown, though genetic factors are probably important, according to the National Institutes of Health. Among other environmental causes that have been suspected are diet, digestive tract changes, mercury poisoning and vaccine sensitivity.

The increased risk from air pollution generated by car and truck traffic may be due to exhaust particles, though the study didn't measure the particulate matter at any of the homes of the children analyzed.

Instead, researchers modeled what they expected the air pollution was, based on the mother's address. …