Autism & Freeways: What's the Link?


freewayIn the ongoing efforts to find out what causes autism, a new study found that women who live near a freeway had children with a significantly higher risk of developing autism. In the study out of California, children born to mothers who lived within 1,000 feet of a freeway (or within about three blocks) at the time of their birth had double the risk of developing the disorder. Double!

While researchers hesitate to say there's a direct correlation, the study may lend further credence to theories that environmental factors may cause or contribute to the disorder.

"This study isn't saying exposure to air pollution or exposure to traffic causes autism," said one of the researchers. "But it could be one of the factors that are contributing to its increase."

As someone who lives within 1,000 feet of a freeway, this news really concerns me. Neither of my children shows signs of autism, but I wonder in what other ways where we chose to live may be affecting our health.

Researchers aren't sure what about a freeway could affect the incidence of autism, especially because people living by "major roads" weren't affected in the same manner.

"It's the proximity to the freeway but we also need to know are those pollutants moving into the home, are they in the backyard, is it the pollution, noise, is it the stress of living near a freeway," said researcher Dr. Larry Yin.

While the news may be startling, especially if you're pregnant and living near a freeway, it's certainly not the magic switch everyone is hoping to find so that we can stop autism just like that, by moving. Instead, it's another part of a bigger puzzle. And as frightening, fragmented, and contradictory as the pieces found may be, they hopefully are getting us closer to finding a cause and a cure for autism.

Does this study make you fearful about where you live?

Image via Payton Chung/Flickr

baby development, baby health, safety, autism


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thedg... thedgoddess

Nope. Not concerned. It's just another fear tactic.
Two autistic kids, live NO WHERE NEAR a freeway. In our case, it's genetic.

jeryn... jerynhooey

i see the tax dollars are hard at work. i dont by it either. in my case i lived no where near a high way either. my son's is genetic.

hotic... hoticedcoffee

Sigh.  Yet another scientific study that brags about determining something 'may or may not contribute to autism'.  Unless they found out for sure that X causes autism, I'm not interested. 

Ingrid Johanns

I am dumbfounded by the comments left here.  Just because your kids didn't get autism from freeway pollution doesn't mean others didn't.  (It also doesn't mean that your child didn't get it from some other polluting source and that you should just assume it's purely a genetic disorder.)

Consider it this way -  not everyone who smokes gets cancer.  And not everyone who has cancer got it from smoking.  But there is a clear statistical link between smoking and cancer that can't be ignored.  Same here with pollution and autism.  While there are many who did not get it from highways, this is a major breakthrough in the thinking about autism these days.  That it CAN be caused by/linked to environmental pollutants is a huge insight into helping to reduce the numbers of those contracting this disease/disorder.  It can possibly lead to more studies about what kinds of environmental toxins can trigger autism... and for those not living near highways, maybe they have exposed their kids to these toxins in other ways or forms that are just not discovered yet.  This kind of finding is not a waste of tax dollars.  It's a huge insight into how some cases of autism come about.

Fallaya Fallaya

okey dokey....


Phils... PhilsBabyMama

Huh.   Interesting.  I hope we're getting closer to finding the cause.

nonmember avatar Jocelyn

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