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.”
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