Source: Daily Mail, London England, November 27, 2012
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LIVING near a busy road could treble the risk of childhood autism, scientists warned yesterday.

Exposure to air pollution in the womb or during the first year of life was linked to a twofold increase in a child’s chances of having the disorder.

But children living in homes with the highest traffic pollution levels were three times more at risk than those living in the least exposed homes.

Experts said the finding was important but did not prove that traffic pollutants could affect brain development.

Around one in 100 children develops autism but the symptoms do not usually become apparent until the second year of life.

Autism, or autistic spectrum disorder, including Asperger’s syndrome, is an umbrella term for a range of developmental disorders that have a lifelong effect on the ability to interact socially and communicate.

An estimated 600,000 UK adults and children are affected. Genes are known to play a role in the development of autism but the impact of environmental factors is less clear.

In the new study, American scientists looked at data on 279 children affected by autism and 245 similar children with- out it. Cross-checks with pollution records from the US Environmental Protection Agency revealed the raised risks.

Heather Volk, the lead researcher in the University of Southern California study, said: This work has broad potential public health implications.

We’ve known for a long time that air pollution is bad for lungs, and especially for children. Were now beginning to understand how air pollution may affect the brain. Dr Volk said diesel engines were a big concern in the findings published online in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.


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