Air pollution linked to autism

LA air pollution

Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester, may increase women's risk of having children with autism, a new study suggests.

Marcy Reiford/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Air pollution may double a pregnant woman’s risk of having a child with autism, according to a study published December 18 in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Researchers mined data from a study that followed 116,430 U.S. women since 1989 and analyzed pregnancy outcomes in relation to where the women lived and to U.S. EPA air pollution records for those areas, which included all 50 states. The study focused on children born between 1990 and 2002 and included 245 diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and 1,522 without such a disorder. 

The researchers found that women who were exposed during pregnancy to fine particular matter in the air, such as those living near a highway, had a greater risk of having a child with autism. The effect of air pollution was most significant during the third trimester, the researchers report. 

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