Early research produced from a study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh has discovered that children afflicted by Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) were 1.4 to two times more likely to have experienced higher levels of air pollution during pregnancy and the first two years of their lives than children who do not have ASD.
After canvassing 217 families with children who have ASD in several Pennsylvania counties, the researchers adjusted for age of the mother, race, education, smoking history and other factors along with the estimated exposure to pollutants known to affect neurodevelopment as reported by the National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA).
Exposure to styrene, a chemical used in plastic and paints, chromium, a metal commonly applied to making steel and cyanide which becomes airborne through car exhausts and smoking were three of the leading pollutants in assessing endocrine disruptions that lead to birth defects. However, currently, there is still room for the correlation between air pollution and birth defects to be coincidental. Nevertheless, Dr. Evelyn Talbott. one of the researchers, is confident in the results as they correlate with past studies about pollutant exposure and ASD.
"We are finding some consistencies between the studies, which I consider to be important. Is it proving a cause? Absolutely not. But I do think it bears further looking into," Talbott tells Forbes magazine.
Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a professor at the University of California-Davis and chief of its Division of Environmental and Occupational Health has managed several studies into environmental epidemiology with more than 200 publications on the effects that metals, pesticides and air pollutants can have on human nutrition, pregnancy and the development of newborns and children. Though Hertz-Picciotto had not yet seen the University of Pittsburgh's research, she claims that the connection between ASD and pollution is "very plausible."
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