Memo to Anti-Vaxxer Jenny McCarthy: Research Points to a Very Different Culprit for Autism
Study leader Evelyn Talbott, a Pitt Public Health professor of epidemiology, explained why researchers decided to investigate the connection between autism and pollution: “There were three small studies that came out since 2006 linking ASD, autism spectrum disorders, with air pollution…I scratched my head and said, ‘Nobody’s ever looked at this, and when you don’t look at it, you don’t find anything.’ It is worth looking at it because we know so very little about what causes autism spectrum disorders.”
The children exposed to two substances were up to twice as likley as others to develop autism spectrum disorders. The first is styrene, which is used in plastics, paints and is also a product of gasoline combustion in automobiles. The second, chromium, is produced during the processes used in steel manufacturing and other industries.
This University of Pittsburgh study follows other recent studies which have found possible connections between air pollution and autism, as well as other ailments of the brain. A study by the University of Rochester Medical Center recently showed how exposure to air pollution early in life altered the brains of mice in ways that are linked to autism and schizophrenia in humans.
For a long time, scientists focused on the lungs as the main site of damage to the human body from air pollution. But now researchers are shifting attention to the brain. Some research, such as a recent Harvard University study, has indicated that male fetuses may be more vulnerable to air pollution in the womb than females.