Can Air Pollution be Responsible for Autism?
The health of young children was closely analyzed in Shanghai during their first three years of life and researchers found industrial emissions and increased exposure to fine particles emanating from vehicle exhausts increase the risk of Autism Condition by as much as 77%.
124 children with Autism Condition were included along with 1240 healthier children gradually over a 9-year period in an attempt to examine the underlying association between autism condition and air pollution.
The study is seen to be the first of its kind that examines the longer term effects of air pollution that is seen to indirectly trigger autism condition among young children particularly in developing countries. This is seen to be a major development owing to earlier studies that link autism condition in children to prenatal air pollution.
Associate professor Guo explains, “The underlying causes of ASD condition are complex in nature and not completely understood. However, environmental conditions responsible for triggering the condition are slowly but progressively recognized in addition to other external factors.”
The professor further explains, “The brains of young children are prone to being more vulnerable to the environmental conditions and many studies have directly suggested that these factors could end up altering the immune system and impacting the brain functionality to a certain extent. Nevertheless, a strong link could be uncovered that highlights the correlation between autism condition and air pollutants which calls for further research before understanding the factors in the broadest manner.”
Air pollution is seen to be one among the major concerns that need to be immediately addressed for the larger benefits of public. The World Health Organization (WHO) has put forth air pollution, being responsible for more than 4.2 million deaths every year across the globe.
Additionally, outdoor pollutants are seen to be also responsible for the rising diseases in countries, especially those which are densely populated.
The authors further highlight how pollution is responsible in causing deaths by taking Australia into the picture where the concentration of air pollutants is typically on the lower side but has resulted in more than 3,000 premature deaths due the to burning of fossil fuels in high concentrations. The authors explain this has only led to tightening of exchequer noose by up to $24 billion.
Professor Guo adds, “Air pollution has risen to unsafe levels and it is only becoming worse as the days pass by.”
The authors, in an attempt to have a deeper understanding of the relationship between autism condition and air pollutants, examined three types of particulate matter and its underlying health effects.
PM2.5, PM10, and PM1 – The fine particles that are byproducts of smoke emission from vehicles, factories and interestingly, the road dust. The authors further observed, the smaller the particles the more dangerous its effects owing to its better penetration capability giving rise to serious health conditions.
The authors further explain about PM1 – The smallest of the particle size, being lesser understood owing to fewer studies that have taken place.
Professor Gau conclude by saying, “Although smaller particles are far more dangerous, there isn’t a global policy that dictates the standards of air pollution.”