Air pollution may increase risk of Autism, research finds

We do every possible thing to keep our children safe. But, what do you do if the air they inhale is hurting them? Two recent studies have discovered a link between moderately low levels of air pollution and kids’ risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). But further research is required.

One study was published in JAMA Pediatrics. This research studied 132,000 births from 2004 to 2009 in Vancouver, Canada. Scientists concluded there was an association between nitric oxide exposure from car exhaust during pregnancy and a larger rate of childhood ASD.

The second research, published in Environmental Epidemiology. Between 1989 and 2013, it observed more than 15,000 infants born in Denmark. This research found that exposure to air pollution during the initial months of life and later was linked to ASD.

“The research showed a slight increase in autism for infants exposed to pollutants like nitric oxide before birth. While it is a slight increase, if huge populations are visible, it could still affect many progenies,” Lynn Singer said. He is a Ph.D., professor of population and quantitative health sciences, pediatrics, psychiatry, and psychology at the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

“It approves some preceding study. And proposes that air pollution should be examined further regarding how it links to autism,” she added. Still, neither research verified that air pollution is causing ASD. The researchers have only revealed that children in polluted are at a greater risk.

No proof yet on what causes ASD

Nitric oxide is one of a variety of air pollutants released from the exhausts of road vehicles. Natural levels of the gas in the body play an important part in nerve functioning, blood pressure regulation, and the immune system. But excess NO can cause harmful effects in adults like metabolic disorders.

In current years there have been many studies proposing to have found an association between one thing or another and an increased ASD risk. Acetaminophen which is usually sold under the brand name Tylenol is a good example.

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology concluded there’s proof that acetaminophen use for 28 days or more during pregnancy was associated with a 20 percent increase. Sound frightening? Obviously, it does — but is it as bad as it sounds? Maybe not. This study’s discoveries actually specify a low level of individual risk. Like other researches of the air pollution, this was also an observational research.

“Observational studies can only reveal a connection. One would require a randomized clinical experiment to found if something caused autism,” explained Singer.

Some research is biased

Research which was initially published in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry had detected that aluminum in some vaccines actually caused ASD in mice.

Formerly, other researchers took a close look at the research and found the main problems with how they came to this deduction. There was even indicated that some of the information may have been faked. The study was ultimately withdrawn.

Another study was published in 1998, involving only 12 children. It specified that symptoms of autism arose soon after the children had received the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. The fault was placed on thimerosal (a form of mercury) in the vaccine.

However, the outcomes of several large U.S., Japanese, and European studies demonstrate that, though MMR vaccination rate has remained constant or declined. But the rate of kids detected with autism has ascended. The Danish government even stopped using vaccines containing thimerosal, but the rates of ASD continued to rise. “The theory that vaccines cause autism has been disproved in the technical literature,” confirmed Singer.

Guidelines keep changing

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), detecting ASD can be problematic. “Because there is no medicinal test, like a blood test, to identify the conditions. Doctors observe the child’s behavior and development to make an analysis.” So doctors depend on well-known medical strategies to detect ASD.

But, with all new version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association and the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organization, the standards for detecting ASD have extended. ASD was altered from a severe disease to a state which includes minor forms.

Moreover, there’s better detection of ASD, in grownups as well as children. Asked whether this could increase the ASD rate being diagnosed, Singer said: “I can’t decide exactly, but definitely changing and increasing diagnostic standards is a factor, as is increased awareness and strategy changes.”

A medical test could lead to a cure

The developing brains of young kids are more susceptible to toxic disclosures in the environment. And numerous studies have proposed this could affect the immune system and brain function. Researchers are working to generate accurate medicinal tests which can tell whether anyone has this disorder.

Recently a research was published from Stanford University. It observed that low hormone levels of the vasopressin in a child’s spinal fluid might guess their chances of developing ASD. Scientists from the University of Warwick in England have established a diagnostic test using urine and blood. This test might predict ASD with 92 percent correctness.

“Most children with developmental interruptions have an indefinite cause except for a few which can now be recognized. For example Down syndrome. Identification of a particular medical analysis will ultimately lead to prevention or a treatment,” said Singer.

The bottom line

The causes of autism are not fully understood, but environmental factors are gradually known in addition to genetic and other factors. A new study finds that air pollution is linked to an increased risk of autism in kids exposed during pregnancy and childhood. It didn’t verify that pollution caused ASD.

Several factors have been examined, but none have been confirmed as a cause of autism. Increased ASD rates may have a lot to do with alterations to the diagnostic conditions used by clinicians and better detection rates.

While there’s no medicinal test for ASD, work is being done to discover one. Possibly air pollution does surely affect ASD risk, or maybe it doesn’t. But still, we need more study which will add more evidence.

Areeba Hussain

Areeba is an independent medical and healthcare writer. For the last three years, she is writing for Tophealthjournal. Her prime areas of interest are diseases, medicine, treatments, and alternative therapies. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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