Pregnant women exposed to heavy diesel pollution are twice as likely to have an autistic child as those living in areas with low pollution, according to a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health. The results add to a growing body of research linking air pollution to autism.
There is no known single cause for autism, but it is generally accepted that it is caused by abnormalities in brain structure or function. Brain scans show differences in the shape and structure of the brain in children with autism versus typical children. No one gene has been identified as causing autism.
Autism tends to occur more frequently than expected among individuals who have certain medical conditions, including Fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, congenital rubella syndrome, and untreated phenylketonuria (PKU). Some harmful substances ingested during pregnancy also have been associated with an increased risk of autism.
Research indicates that other factors besides the genetic component are contributing to the rise in increasing occurrences of autism, such as environmental toxins (e.g., heavy metals such as mercury), which are more prevalent in our current environment than in the past. Per research, high air concentrations of diesel, mercury, lead, manganese, and methylene chloride significantly increase the risk of giving birth to a child with autism.
Link to vaccines: One of the greatest controversies in autism is centered on whether a link exists between autism and certain childhood vaccines, particularly the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. Despite extensive research, no reliable study has shown a link between autism and the MMR vaccine. Avoiding childhood vaccinations can place your child in danger of catching and spreading serious diseases, including whooping cough (pertussis), measles or mumps.
FACTS AND STATISTICS
1% of the population of children in the U.S. ages 3-17 have an autism spectrum disorder. Prevalence is estimated at 1 in 88 births significantly up from 1 in 150 in 90s. 1 to 1.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder. It is the fastest-growing developmental disability with 1,148% growth rate.
But most importantly, the cost of lifelong care can be reduced by 2/3 with early diagnosis and intervention.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Researchers identified diesel as the most dangerous pollutant linked to autism. Diesel pollution is strongest within 1,500 feet of major roads and highways. Be careful how much exposure you have to pollutants. If necessary, wear a mask.
Expectant mothers should take prenatal vitamins and eat foods high in healthy oils, stay away from cigarette smoke, and maintain a healthy weight throughout pregnancy, all of which have been shown to reduce the risk of have having a child with autism.