Babies who are exposed to traffic pollution in the womb and in their first 12 months of life are more likely to develop autism, a new study has found.
Exposure to traffic fumes and industrial air pollution can dramatically increase a mother’s chances of having a child with autism. Autism is developmental disorder that interferes with social and communication skills.
Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found the risk was doubled for women living in the most polluted locations. The scientists found a clear link between being pregnant somewhere with high levels of pollution and having an autistic child.
Diesel and mercury pollution showed the strongest link. Women living with the highest levels of these pollutants were twice as likely to give birth to a child with autism as those in areas with the lowest levels.
Other types of air pollution, including lead, manganese, methylene chloride and combined metals, had weaker associations with autism risk. Women with the highest levels of exposure to these substances were about 50% more likely to have a child who develops autism.
Most pollutants are more strongly associated with autism in boys than in girls. Air pollutants contain many toxins that are known to affect neurological function and foetal development.