Studies have shown that Air Pollution plays a role in the rising rate of autism among children in the U.S. and worldwide. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, one in every 50 children in the U.S. has been diagnosed with autism. This is a 72% increase in the rate since 2007. The rate for boys is even higher. In areas with elevated pollution levels, autism rates are even higher than the national average. In New Jersey, for example, one in 48 children have autism. For boys in New Jersey, the rate is one in 28. WE BREATHE UP TO 20,000 LITERS OF AIR EACH DAY.
Our homes can be a network of hidden dangers lingering within the air we breathe each and every day. Environmental factors, including air quality, also play a role. A recent study from the University of Southern California found that children with a specific gene variant (known as the “MET gene”) who also lived in high pollution areas were three times more likely to develop autism than children without the gene and living in low-pollution areas. In another recent study, researchers at Harvard University found a link between specific pollutants and autism. Women exposed to high levels of airborne diesel particulates or mercury while pregnant were twice as likely to have a child with autism. Women exposed to lead, manganese and methylene chloride were also more likely to have a child with autism.
The risk for this group was not as high as for those exposed to diesel particulates and mercury. The researchers used air pollution data from the EPA to estimate women’s exposures while pregnant.
Autism and autism spectral disorder (ASD) are both terms for a variety of disorders affecting brain development. Those with autism may have problems with social interaction. They may lack verbal and nonverbal communication skills or exhibit repetitive behaviors. Many with autism excel in visual skills, music, math and art. A minority of autistic individuals have intellectual or other disabilities. There is no single cause of autism, “but it is generally accepted that it is caused by abnormalities in brain structure or function,” according to the Autism Society of America.
Parents might worry about a baby eating big chips of lead paint. But it's the little paint chips -- so small that they're just bits of dust -- that experts say are a bigger concern. Although lead-based paint hasn't been sold since 1978, plenty of older homes still have it. Tiny fragments of lead paint can float through the air and accumulate on surfaces throughout your house. Babies can pick them up on their hands and get them into their mouths. They can also breathe them in directly. Contrary to what you might think, it doesn't take much. Even at very low levels of exposure, lead dust can cause harm.
It is not clear how tiny particles might cause autism, but they are covered with myriad contaminants and penetrate cells, which can disrupt brain development. Last year the Environmental Protection Agency, citing the link to asthma, lung cancer and cardiovascular disease, tightened air quality standards for fine particulate pollution. States have until 2020 to meet the new standards.
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