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Traffic pollution tied to autism risk: study

Published on Nov 27, 2012 7:52 AM
Traffic makes its way through heavy smog in Beijing on Oct 26, 2012. The US embassy's Beijing air-quality pollution monitor was recording a particulate matter (PM2.5) index of 343, or 'hazardous'. -- PHOTO : AFP

(REUTERS) - Babies who are exposed to lots of traffic-related air pollution in the womb and during their first year of life are more likely to become autistic, according to a US study.

The findings, which appeared in the Archives of General Psychiatry, support previous research linking how close children live to freeways to their risk of autism, the study's lead author says.

"We're not saying traffic pollution causes autism, but it may be a risk factor for it," said Dr Heather Volk, an assistant professor at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

The prevalence of autism has grown over the past few years, and it's now estimated that the disorder - which runs a spectrum from a profound inability to communicate and mental retardation to milder symptoms seen in Asperger's Syndrome - affects one in every 88 children born in the United States.

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