Pregnant women exposed to certain pollutants were twice as likely to have a child with autism than other women. Pollution from diesel and mercury had the strongest link between exposure by pregnant women and autism in their children. These results are from a large study done by Harvard University’s School of Public Health and published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
Although previous studies had found a relationship between autism and increased exposure to pollutants by pregnant women, the Harvard study was the largest study to date. In addition to mercury and diesel, the study also found that exposure to lead increased the risk of having a child with autism.
Senior author Dr Mark Weisskopf, from Harvard, said: “Our results suggest that new studies should begin the process of measuring metals and other pollutants in the blood of pregnant women or newborn children to provide stronger evidence that specific pollutants increase risk of autism. A better understanding of this can help to develop interventions to reduce pregnant women’s exposure to these pollutants.”
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