Is air pollution linked to autism? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Is air pollution linked to autism?

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Gleny Duran wants to know why her 8-year-old son, Angel, has autism.

"Is it something that I'm eating? Is it the air? Is it genetic?" she asked.

Doctors don't know exactly what causes the neurological disorder, but now more research points to the environment playing a role. In the first national study of its kind, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health looked at 25,000 women and found those exposed to high levels of air pollution while pregnant were twice as likely to have a child with autism.

"We need to be concerned about levels of air pollution in our environment and we need to do everything we can to reduce ambient air pollution exposures," said Dr. Alycia Halladay of Autism Speaks.

Exposure to diesel, lead and other pollutants are known to affect a baby's brain development.

One in 88 children has autism in the United States. Experts say the findings do not mean that pollution causes autism, but may be another risk factor.

"One of many different risk factors both genetic and environmental. And what we really need to better understand is how these many risk factors... how they interact together," Halladay said.

Duran lives in Manhattan and says she is concerned about the air quality.

"It's full of pollution, so it's definitely going to be something that's in our mind," she said.

But she says the city also offers so many programs for children with special needs, so moving really isn't an option.

Researchers say the results are cause for concern because between 20 and 60 percent of the women in the study lived in areas where pollutants were a problem.

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