Autism in the air

Traffic pollution linked to autism in children

Infants exposed to high levels of traffic-related air pollution in the womb and during their first year of life have a higher risk of developing autism, a study finds.

The report, compiled by researchers from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, compared 245 California children who were not autistic with 279 who were, finding the autistic children were almost twice as likely to have been exposed to the highest level of particulate-matter pollution, according to a USC press release.

A link between autism and nitrogen dioxide, which is present in vehicle emissions, was also found. The study’s lead author, Heather Volk, said such pollution could affect brain development but warned that the research does not conclusively prove air pollution alone causes autism.

Autism covers a wide spectrum of communication and social-interaction disorders that affect one in 88 children born in the United States.