Air Pollution Linked to Autism in China

The study of children in Shanghai, from birth to three years, found that exposure to fine particles (PM2.5) from vehicle exhausts, industrial emissions, and other sources of outdoor pollution increased the risk of developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by up to 78 percent.  (Image: via   pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
The study of children in Shanghai, from birth to three years, found that exposure to fine particles (PM2.5) from vehicle exhausts, industrial emissions, and other sources of outdoor pollution increased the risk of developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by up to 78 percent. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Exposure to toxic air pollutants is linked to an increased risk of developing autism, according to a Monash University study of Chinese children during their first three years of life. The study of children in Shanghai, from birth to three years, found that exposure to fine particles (PM2.5) from vehicle exhausts, industrial emissions, and other sources of outdoor pollution increased the risk of developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by up to 78 percent.

The study included 124 ASD children and 1,240 healthy children (as control) in stages over a 9-year period, examining the association between air pollution and ASD.

The study, published in Environment International, is the first to examine the effects of long-term exposure of air pollution on ASD during the early life of children in a developing country, adding to previous studies that have already linked prenatal air pollution exposure to ASD in children.

Associate Professor Yuming Guo, from Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine and one author from the study, says global air pollution is rapidly becoming worse and there is no safe level of exposure, adding:

Air pollution is a major public concern and is estimated to cause up to 4.2 million deaths (WHO) every year globally. Outdoor pollutants contribute to a high burden of disease and premature deaths in countries, including China and India, especially in densely populated areas.

Even in Australia, where concentrations are typically lower, air pollution from burning fossil fuels and industrial processes causes about 3,000 premature deaths a year — almost three times the national road toll and costing the economy up to $24 billion. Guo says global air pollution is rapidly becoming worse and there is no safe level of exposure, saying:

The study examined the health effects of three types of particulate matter (PM1, PM2.5, PM10) — fine airborne particles that are the byproducts of emissions from factories, vehicular pollution, construction activities, and road dust. The smaller the airborne particles, the more capable they are of penetrating the lungs and entering the bloodstream, causing a range of serious health conditions.

PM1 is the smallest in particle size, but few studies have been done on PM1 globally and agencies are yet to set safety standards for it. The study authors conclude:

Provided by: Monash University [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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