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Autism Link to Traffic Pollution Exposure During Pregnancy

By Australian Science Media Centre

Exposure to traffic pollution during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of autism.

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Original study published in JAMA Pediatrics (

“Many countries, including Australia, have reported a dramatic increase in the number of diagnoses of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) over the past three decades. Recent estimates suggest that the prevalence of ASD is one in every 110 individuals (~1%), although some figures suggest the prevalence is even higher.

The biological pathways contributing to ASD are poorly understood. Current evidence suggests that genetic factors play a major role, but these alone cannot account for the recent increase in prevalence, suggesting environmental factors may also be important.

This research contributes to a growing number of studies that have identified a link between prenatal exposure to air pollutants, in this case specifically nitric oxide from traffic, and ASD. It is, however, important to note that the results of all previous studies have not been consistent, and also that these studies are not able to show cause and effect.

Nonetheless, this research strengthens the existing evidence, and it is particularly of concern that a link between relatively low levels of air pollution and ASD has been identified. Further research is required to develop our understanding of the full health impacts of exposure to the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.