Traffic Pollution Could Put Your Baby at Greater Risk of Autism

pollutionAnother day, another study telling us what may or may not cause autism? Well, yes, but this one that links autism with exposure to traffic pollution during pregnancy or the first year of a child's life seems to have some serious legs.

According to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, researchers found that pregnant women exposed to high levels of pollution were as much as two to three times more likely to have a child with autism than those with the lowest exposure. That's a huge difference, and it's not the first time such a link has been found.

The strongest link was an exposure to nitrogen dioxide, which is found in high levels around freeways. Families living within 1,000 feet of a freeway were found to have the highest risk. So does that mean if you live in a high-traffic area, you should move the minute you get pregnant?


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Researchers say it's not that simple ... like always. Heather Volk, lead author of the study, told Time:

We’re not saying that air pollution causes autism. We’re saying it may be a risk factor for autism. Autism is a complex disorder and it’s likely there are many factors contributing.

Time also points out that while autism rates have skyrocketed over the years, the levels of the pollutants measured in the study have stayed pretty much the same. So once again we're left with a new fear of something that may or may not alter our children's lives. We're left with possible regrets and what ifs about where we choose to live or how we commute to work. We're left with a whole lot more questions and no real answers.

It's easy to get frustrated I think, as these studies come out so regularly. A couple of weeks ago it was the flu during pregnancy freaking everyone out. Autism has also been linked to everything from vaccines to a lack of prenatal vitamins to the food we eat. 

Instead of being frustrated or living in fear of each new piece of information, however, we should look at the findings with hope (as difficult as that may be). The fact that they are finding links and that studies continue to probe into this mystifying disorder is positive. While each one individually may not change lives, together, hopefully, they'll all come together one day to give us the answers we need to prevent and possibly even cure autism.

What do you think of this latest study?


Image via Daveness_98/Flickr

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