WASHINGTON - Pregnant women who were exposed to high levels of air pollution were twice as likely to have a child with autism as women who lived in low-pollution areas, a United States study said yesterday.
According to experts at Harvard University, the research is the first large national study to examine links between the prevalence of pollution and the development of the developmental disorder.
The findings are published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
"Our findings raise concerns," said lead author Andrea Roberts, a research associate in the Harvard School of Public Health's Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
The data came from a large survey of 116,430 nurses that began in 1989. For the analysis, researchers isolated 325 women who had a child with autism and 22,000 women who had a child without the disorder.
The analysis found that women who lived in locations with the highest levels of diesel particulates or mercury in the air were twice as likely to have a child with autism as those who lived in the areas with the lowest levels.
When the pollutants included lead, manganese, methylene chloride and combined metal exposure, women in areas with the highest levels of these pollutants were about 50 per cent more likely to have a child with autism.
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