Living Near a Highway Linked to Higher Autism Rate

Most experts think autism is caused by genetics combined with some sort of environmental trigger -- though no one knows what, for sure. Here’s a new theory: air pollution has an effect.

In a new study, researchers from the Saban Research Institute at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles examined where 600 kids age 2 to 5 (half with typically development, half with autism) lived during their moms’ pregnancies and at birth, and how close they were to either a major road or a freeway. They found that the kids living 1,000 feet or closer to a highway made children twice as likely to have autism.

Note that city kids weren't as affected as those who live near state or interstate highways. Why exactly? Well, it's the diesel fuel of larger roads that the study's authors blame.

“Toxicological studies suggest a biologically plausible role of air pollution in disrupting brain development and function during critical time points in gestation and early life,” the authors wrote. “Diesel exhaust particles present in traffic related pollution have been shown to have endocrine disrupting activity, and to…alter cognitive function in mice.”

Do you live near a highway? Are you worried? Chime in below!

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