Air pollution exposure may be linked to a child’s risk of autism, a recent study suggests.
The controversial findings echo similar results from a study last winter that found an increased risk of autism among children of women exposed to more smog late in pregnancy.
This new study—which does not establish a direct connection between dirty air and autism—did not find a statistically significant increased risk for autism related to air pollution exposure at any specific time during pregnancy.
Instead, the authors found a child’s odds of autism were 1.5 times greater when air pollution exposure was greater across the entire span of time from pre-pregnancy until the child was 2 years old.
“These findings are striking because they suggest that cumulative exposures over the course of the pregnancy may be important, as opposed to any individual period during the pregnancy,” said study author Evelyn Talbott, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh. But more research would be necessary to understand how pollution might affect autism risk, she said.