Researchers Find Link Between Autism and Traffic Pollution

One more reason to reduce driving: Exposure to high levels of traffic pollutants may increase the risk that children will develop autism, according to a study published recently in the Archives of General Psychology.

A new study found that living near areas with high levels of traffic pollution during pregnancy and the first year of life is linked to an elevated risk of autism. Photo: Google Maps

Researchers from the University of California Keck School of Medicine examined traffic-related air pollution levels in two groups of children: 279 with autism and 245 without. The study found that autistic children and their mothers were twice as likely to live in high-pollution areas during pregnancy and the first year of life, controlling for other factors.

One in 88 children in the U.S. is affected by autism.

Researchers have been looking at a potential link between air pollution and the enigmatic developmental disorder for three years. Fine particle pollution and nitrogen dioxide — two of the leading pollutants emitted by internal combustion vehicles — affect the behavior of certain genes in the early stages of development. One of these genes is known to be less active in children with autism, according to a report on the study published on WebMD.

There is a growing consensus that autism is caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. In reviewing the study, Andrew Adesman, MD, at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, said that traffic-related air pollution is likely one of many contributing factors, WebMD reports.

  • For areas where transportation corridors are also highway corridors, as in the Bay Area or Honolulu, this poses problems for TOD. It essentially means that particulate filtration, either with plants or HVAC air filters, is insufficient because NO2 is also at play.

    Damn. Thankfully, other studies have shown that the pollution plume doesn’t extend too far from the roadway.

  • Hedge685

    ” There is a growing consensus that autism is caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors.”

    There is that scientific consensus again…ala global war..umm climate change.  The reality is that scientists have no clue what is causing-‘ enigmatic developmental disorder.’ My BS detector says this study was funded by the 0% growth enviro-nazis in order to further their aims to keep us all poor.

    By the way, I have been diagnosed with ‘enigmatic inability to put up with BS disorder.’ Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  • Those pesky scientists! Imagine expecting the average American to care about data and research when most have less scientific literacy than a Chinese third grader. Americans don’t need data and the scientific method! They know what’s true when they see it!  And what’s true is that it really doesn’t matter how much asthma or cancer or autism pollution from cars produces, because if car drivers had to actually pay for the health care costs their pollution causes, they probably couldn’t afford to drive at all. Which would be totally unfair. So we have to ignore all these reports just as fast as they’re written, or we’ll all be poor, or at least far less able to drive our SUV to the store for a six pack of beer.

    In fact, if drivers actually had to pay for all the costs of their driving, they would be paying an extra 39 cents for every mile they drove. (And that doesn’t even include costs associated with current and future climate change!) Whoa! That might get expensive! Instead, because Americans know that car driving is more important than health, safety, prosperity or happiness, car drivers are able to foist off all these costs onto somebody else! Now there’s a deal. This is why America is the land of the free. Who gets to pay the costs? It doesn’t really matter much since it’s best not to be too concerned about where the money comes from, but the suckers would include any taxpayer who drives less than they do, people who don’t drive at all, future taxpayers (also known as children), and people silly enough to live near high traffic roads (no wonder they get sick!)

    By giving drivers subsidies in so many ways while pretending we’re not subsidizing them at all, driving stays cheap, and cheap driving is what makes America great. Let other people pay for the accidents, the road maintenance and repair, the waste disposal costs, the additional congestion, the new road construction, the noise and vibration damage, the air pollution damage, the water pollution damage, and providing public land for free car storage. (And the list of driver welfare goes on!)  Let the driver pass down the road carefree, the radio on, the wind in his/her shining locks, with no sense of responsibility for the damage and costs his/her vehicle inflicts. Though we all may suffer and pay for that car ride, we do so nobly, uncomplaining, and in silence. There is no price too high, no sacrifice too great to keep driving cheap and convenient, because of all the freedoms we have in America, the freedom to drive cheaply is the one we value most. In America, cheap driving is not only more important than health and happiness, it is not only more important than the survival of every child born for the next fifty years, it is more important, right now, than life itself.

  • Anonymous

    Correlation is not causation.

  • Prinzrob

    I agree with your statement in spirit, but the evidence in this study appears to go beyond correlation. From the article:

    “Fine particle pollution and nitrogen dioxide — two of the leading pollutants emitted by internal combustion vehicles — affect the behavior of certain genes in the early stages of development. One of these genes is known to be less active in children with autism, according to a report on the study published on WebMD.”

  • voltairesmistress

    What are the car haters going to do when nearly all vehicles are electric and drive themselves?  With the results of so few accidents and zero emissions at the street level, will the argument come down to simple space concerns about congestion and parking on the street?

  • Jkjfour

    Same researchers that linked autism with vaccinations?

  • Anonymous

    If that were the case, autism should have been higher in the 1960s when air pollution was at its highest. But thanks to cleaner burning gasolines emissions are lower now so I don’t even see a correlation. This reminds me of the studies that purported to show that electromagnetic waves caused childhood cancer because there was a school near some high voltage power lines where a number of children had leukemia and the power lines were blamed.

  • When the cars start driving themselves, there will be a new breed of car hater – current car drivers. Late for work? Sorry – this car will not exceed the posted speed limit or run red lights.

  • Joe R.

    @732c4803eb2e277d0054b17154744686:disqus “What are the car haters going to do when nearly all vehicles are electric and drive themselves?  With the results of so few accidents and zero emissions at the street level, will the argument come down to simple space concerns about congestion and parking on the street?”
    I personally won’t be complaining if that reality ever comes to pass. Self-driven electric cars will obviate both of my major concerns-namely the pollution and carnage caused by present-day human controlled gasoline-powered autos. They’ll also use significantly less street space because you can safely run them bumper to bumper.

  • voltairesmistress

    Joe R., you’re right. And adding to that thought: highways could be packed with cars nose to bumper, more like trains, because there won’t be that accident concern.  Seems like existing streets and highways will be able to accommodate a lot more traffic without the collisions, carnage, and anger.  I bet some drivers will initially hate the lack of personal control.  But I think drivers will really like having their time freed up from difficult driving to more enjoyable reading, interacting with their passengers, etc.  Seems curiously civilized!

  • Mike Paul

    As our children may also have a challenge with processing and communicating what they want quickly and effectively, they will choose the easiest and quickest way to get what they want.
    http://cluas.ie/children/autism/

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