In the hopes of finding a correlation between environmental factors and the risk for getting autism, California researchers led by Heather Volk and a professor at the University of Southern California studied 500 children in the area, around half of whom had been diagnosed with autism.
The researchers asked the mothers to provide the addresses of each home the children had lived in since in utero and during the first year of life. Based on the locations, they ascertained each child’s level of exposure to pollution by taking note of the traffic volume, vehicle emissions, nitrogen oxide as well as ozone (emission? Levels?).
The study revealed that those who were most exposed to air pollution (in particular, particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide) were at greater risk of developing autism compared to those who belonged to the bottom 25 percent.
Other potential factors pointed out were genetic differences. Other children may be more predisposed to developing autism because of their genes. Volk shares, “There are some potential pathways that we’re examining in our current research that will be coming up next.”
The study has received much criticism though, but Volk is quick to explain that the research is not meant to suggest a causal relationship, but rather that air pollution could possibly be a factor for triggering autism. “Autism is a complex disorder and it’s likely there are many factors contributing,” said Volk.
•November 27, 2012. Laura Blue. “Autism and Air Pollution: The Link Grows Stronger” healthland.time.com
•November 27, 2012. Ryan Jaslow. “Autism risk increases with air pollution exposure, study finds” cbsnews.com