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

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