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Recently, a study led by Heinz Endowments was conducted in Western Pennsylvania stating that certain air pollutants might put a child at an increased risk for developing ASD (autism spectrum disorder). The researchers chose this specific region for the study as a consequence of the highest number of cases reported in the area.
The preliminary results of the study have been approved for review by American Association for Aerosal Research. However, this is for the first time when researchers found a correlation between air pollution and autism rates.
Dr. Evelyn Talbott, the study’s lead author stated in the press release, “Autism spectrum disorders are a major public health problem, and their prevalence has increased severely. In spite of its serious social impact, the autism causes are poorly understood. There are very few autism studies that have included the environmental exposures while taking into account other personal and behavioral risk factors. Our study is an addition to the small but growing body of research that considers air toxins as one of the risk factors for ASD.”
Certainly, a population-based study has been performed by Dr. Talbott and her colleagues, including families with and without ASD residing in 6 southwestern counties of Pennsylvania. The researchers found, links between increased levels of chromium and styrene and childhood autism spectrum disorder, a condition that affects one in 68 children. Moreover, The team of researchers interviewed 217 families of children having ASD and compared these results with the findings from two separate sets of comparison families of children without ASD born during the same time period within the six-county area.
After examining some of the factors like the age of the mother, maternal cigarette smoking, race and education, the children who fell into higher exposure groups of styrene and chromium were at 1.4 to two-fold greater risk of ASD. Styrene is a chemical used in plastics and is a product of combustion from burning gasoline in vehicles. In contrast, chromium is a heavy metal produced by steel hardening and other industrial processes, as well as power plants. Other air pollutants include cyanide, methylene chloride, methanol and arsenic that were also linked to increased autism risk in children.