Study Concludes Prenatal Exposure to Pollution Raises Risk of Autism


Parents who are expecting a child are obviously experiencing a very exciting time in their lives.  Their minds and hearts are filled with hope and anticipation, but every expecting parent also has troubling thoughts regarding the potential health of the baby.  There are certain problems that can arise that people worry about before children are born, and these include birth defects or other developmental deficiencies.  Fortunately, many of these can be located and identified before the child is born.  Unfortunately, one difficult condition that cannot be identified until after a child arrives is autism.

This is becoming even more of a problem in recent years in the United States as the rate of autism has exploded.  As of now, approximately one child out of every 88 that is born is ultimately diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.  Given this troubling phenomenon, the medical research community has been searching for different causes for this condition.  While there is no one answer that has revealed itself at this point, the list of potential causes is growing.  Genetics is one problem that has been identified, and according to a recent study there could be another cause that expecting parents should understand.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health have recently completed a study that involves reviewing statistics that date back to 1989.  This study is known as the Nurses’ Health Study II, which involved more than 100,000 nurses who had babies volunteering to be tracked by the researchers in order to measure the health of their children.  The researchers found that of those volunteers, 325 of them had children who were eventually diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

The researchers decided to dig further into these statistics and they found that most of the women who gave birth to children with autism lived in areas that contained higher levels of pollutants in the air.  At that point, the research expanded to a nationwide look at autism rates as they could have related to geography and pollutant levels.  That search found that women in the locations ranked in the top 20 percent for pollutants were twice as likely to have children who were autistic than mothers who lived in areas in the bottom 20 percent of pollutants.

While this finding was certainly surprising and potentially extremely important, the researchers were not able to identify specific substances that may have a connection with autism.  What they did conclude was that pollutants in the air can have a harmful effect on brains that are developing in the womb and the researchers have suggested that additional study on this issue is warranted.

We have been serving clients as New York medical malpractice lawyers since 1971, and we have represented many families whose children contracted autism because of a mistake made during the prenatal care period or during the child’s delivery.  The team at The Fitzgerald Law Firm hopes that this finding leads to changes that help to bring about more protection for these developing brains so that the autism rate can be brought under control.