Diesel Engine Fumes Linked to Autism: Study


Could diesel fumes potentially be hazardous to unborn babies?

According to a recent study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, women exposed to diesel fumes during late pregnancy could double the risk of having a child with autism. Researchers found that the risk rises in areas with high levels of traffic pollution and women are most vulnerable during the last trimester of pregnancy. The study looked at the impact of exposure to PM 2.5s, a small pollution particle produced by diesel engines.

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By collecting data on 116,000 women, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health noted where those women lived during their pregnancies and compared it with data from the Environmental Protection Agency and other sources on levels of fine particulate matter air pollution. As a result, they identified 245 children who were diagnosed with autism and a control group of 1,522 children without autism. Researchers concluded that exposure to PM2.5 was significantly associated with autism during pregnancy though exposure before or after was not associated.

“Our data add additional important support to the hypothesis that maternal exposure to air pollution contributes to the risk of autism spectrum disorders,” said Marc Weisskopf, associate professor of environmental and occupational epidemiology and senior author of the study. “The evidence base for a role for maternal exposure to air pollution increasing the risk of autism spectrum disorders is becoming quite strong.”

[Source: DailyMail]

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1 Comment

Allen Schaeffer says:

This headline here is misleading and inaccurate! The new study doesn’t come to this conclusion. Is it too much to ask to actually read the study rather than relying on other sources like the DailyMail- which has since adjusted their representation of the story.
The Harvard study in question looked at fine particle emissions from ALL SOURCES – NOT fine particles from diesel engines. No specific constituents of PM 2.5 were evaluated. Fine PM emissions are a complex mixture of many things. In the US, all diesel engines account for less than 6 percent of fine particle emissions – 94 percent come from other sources like gasoline cars, power plant and industrial emissions.
IN fact the authors go out of their way to say that (page 19)…. ” In the current study we did not have high temporal and spatial resolution data on other air pollution constituents or on specific PM2.5 components to determine whether a specific component is associated with autism.”