research conducted by USC has shown that environmental variables surrounding children might have more profound repercussions on infants and their development.
A study group of 279 children with autism, as well as 245 children without was conducted, taking into account the mother's home address at birth to estimate pollutant levels. Using the EPA's air quality system, they cross referenced exposure levels to NO2, PM2.5, and PM10 to determine the subsequent outcome.
In a nutshell, the study shows that significant exposure to airborne pollution during pregnancy and the first year of a child's life can increase the chances of developing autism...by nearly 2 times.
"We've known for a long time that air pollution is bad for our lungs, and especially for children," states Heather Volk, Ph.D., assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. "We're now beginning to understand how air pollution may affect the brain."
Autism was previously thought to be the result of genetics, but other prenatal variables such as advanced age in either parent, the use of drugs during pregnancy or diabetes have been theorized as the culprit. Whatever the cause may be, an unhealthy or over polluted environment while the child is in utero and at a young age can result in varying cases of Autism. This new USC study reaffirms the hypothesis.
Though the study focused entirely on air pollution it is not the only environmental variable to worry about when bearing or raising a child. Mercury contaminated foods, such as fish, have been shown to have significant neurological effects on a child's development, and currently one million children have more iron in their blood than the currently accepted level for growth.
Regulations by the government have been put in place to protect individuals and their overall health, but pollution on a massive scale has become too prevalent to escape entirely. While we all cannot live in the mountains with the freshest air and cleanest water supply available, simply understanding the effects of pollution on childhood development can help parents better protect their children.