A new Harvard research shows that pregnant women living in highly polluted areas have a nearly doubled risk of giving birth to autistic children than women living in cleaner locations. Researchers say that this new study may shed some light on the true origins of autism.
This study confirms a previous research that associated air pollution with autism, while revealing more details about the issue– it seems that pregnant women in their third trimester are the greatest risk group.
Mr. Marc Weisskopf, lead author of the study and professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, explained that in the third trimester the brain of the child develops many of its essential parts. So, smog inhalation by the mother could seriously affect the brain’s development process. Researchers also say that the longer the exposure to unhealthy air by the mother, the higher the risk of developing autism by the child.
In the study, researchers analyzed pregnant women taking part in the Nurses’ Health Study that had gave birth to autistic children. The team analyzed the air pollution in the areas where those women had lived during their pregnancy by using the readings provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official .
The scientists found that the women in the Nurse study gave birth to 245 children affected by ASD (autism spectrum disorder). Among those women was also Carmen Sanchez who lived in a highly polluted part of Bronx while she was pregnant with her first son, Jacob.
Jacob was born with a mild form of autism and finds it hard to identify the mood on his peers’ faces. His mother says that this saddens him because he cares very much about how people perceive him and yearns for social integration.
Mrs. Sanchez said that during her pregnancy she lived nearby a plant that released huge amounts of air polluters on a daily basis. Additionally, one block away there was the largest Bronx freeway. And to cap it all, while in her last trimester, she had inhaled some extra smoke from a neighboring apartment that caught fire.
Mrs. Sanchez said that the new study confirmed her previous hunches about Jacob’s condition.
“I always felt like there was something environmental (tied to the diagnosis), whether it be the food or the actual air quality. I’ve always felt like that. In some ways, this study gives me peace of mind that we’re closer to solving the problem that is autism,”
Jacob’s mom said.
However, Mrs. Sanches says the findings are somehow frightening because people can avoid eating bad food, but there is no way to avoid breathing bad air.
Still, Researchers reassure future moms that not all of them will have kids with autism. Although autism is linked to air pollution, the air pollutants only double the risk.
Image Source: Inhabitat