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The concentration of air pollutants where you live around the time you give birth may double your child’s risk of autism, according to a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health.
The study, published last week in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, looked at 14 pollutants that have been associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder in previous studies, and concluded that perinatal exposure to these pollutants may increase the risk for the neurodevelopmental disorder.
“Women in the cleanest areas had a noticeably lower risk,” lead author Andrea Roberts, a research associate in the Harvard School of Public Health Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, tells FitPregnancy.com, adding that 20 to 60 percent of the women in the study lived in areas where the risk of autism was elevated.
The study, based on children of participants in the Nurses’ Health Study II (325 autism cases, 22,101 controls) born in all 50 states between 1987 and 2002, found that women who lived in the 20 percent of locations with the highest levels of diesel particulates or mercury in the air were twice as likely to have a child with autism as those who lived in the 20 percent of areas with the lowest levels.
Women who lived in the 20 percent of locations with the highest levels of air pollution from lead, manganese, methylene chloride and combined metal exposure were about 50 percent more likely to have a child with autism than those who lived in the 20 percent of areas with the lowest concentrations.