Real Questions - Can environmental factors increase the risk of autism?



The Autism Risk Factor You Need To Know

There's no question that autism is afflicting a growing number of families: Once considered a rare condition, autism now affects an estimated 1 in 88 children, and experts still aren't sure what causes it. Now, new research is helping to unravel that puzzle, by suggesting that a woman's exposure to air pollution during pregnancy might increase her child's risk.

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The study, published inThe Archives of General Psychiatry, builds on earlier research that also found an association between autism and air pollution. In this particular report, researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) analyzed data on 279 autistic kids and 245 children without the condition. By using the address of each mother during her pregnancy, researchers estimated the pollutant exposures during each pregnancy trimester and each child's first year of life. Those estimations incorporated proximity to major roadways, regional pollution levels and even meteorological factors (like wind direction). 

Kids exposed to the most traffic-related air pollution during pregnancy had more than a two-fold increased risk of developing autism compared to those with minimal exposure. "We already know that pollution can cause lots of health problems," says lead study author Heather Volk, PhD, an assistant professor of preventive medicine in the Division of Environmental Health at USC. "Whether or not it can actually harm the brain is something that hasn't been looked at as closely."

More from Prevention: 10 Chemicals Linked To Autism

Volk and her colleagues are already planning more research on the subject, including an investigation into particular pollutants that might determine which are more strongly linked to autism. And despite this study's findings, researchers still suspect that autism is caused by multiple factors, including genetics and environmental exposures like pollution. "By no means have we figured this all out yet," Volk says. "The environment is likely one risk factor out of many."

In the future, experts hope that further investigations can yield specific recommendations for pregnant women where autism is concerned. But in the meantime, there are several ways to reduce your exposure to environmental pollution—and plenty of good reasons to do so. These contaminants have already been linked to breathing problems, allergies, heart disease, and even cancer. Take the following steps to minimize the pollution you inhale every day:

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Check the TRI Find out whether you live near industries that are releasing potential toxins into the air (or water or soil) by calling the EPA's information hotline for the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) at (800) 424-9346.

Filter itClose your windows and turn on your air conditioner (remember to clean or change the filters often) when it's hot outside. In cooler months, consider a high-efficiency particulate-arresting (HEPA) air filter.

Go greenPlants inside the home can actually reduce levels of several air pollutants, including those emitted by traffic, according to recent NASA research. Among the agency's top picks for pollution prevention: rubber plants, Boston ferns and peace lillies.






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Date: 10.12.2018, 22:14 / Views: 44442