In their first issue of 2013, JAMA Psychiatry has published a new study linking traffic-related air pollution with autism.
As someone interested in the issues surrounding air quality–and a parent–this study intrigues me. Both parents of children on the autism spectrum and parents of neurotypical children are mystified by the prevalence of autism tody and the lack of information about its cause.
The study was done in California and involved both children with autism and a control group of neurotypical children. The mother’s address during gestation and the first year of life was used to determine exposure to traffic-related air pollution before birth and until age one. There were 279 children with autism and 245 neurotypical children in the study.
Their conclusion: “Exposure to traffic-related air pollution, nitrogen dioxide, [particles greater than 2.5microns] and [particles greater than 10 microns] during pregnancy and during the first year of life was associated with autism.” They are planning to do further studies to determine whether these exposures are causal, but certainly they found a correlation.
In our research, we often discover environmental factors which are important to the healthy development of children, whether exposure to volatile organic compounds, tobacco smoke, carbon monoxide, radon, bacteria, mold spores, or allergens. We join with JAMA Psychiatry in hoping that further study clarifies the causes of developmental problems so that we can reduce exposure to dangerous substances and increase healthy outcomes for all of our children.