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Concerns Over Environmental Links to Autism

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health have recently released a report regarding one of their studies involving autism and expectant U. S. Women.

Their findings indicate that those who were prenatally exposed to increased air pollutant levels are twice as likely to be diagnosed with autism.

Researchers looked at various locations that had been outlined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency exposure database for areas deemed as being contaminated with high concentrations of air pollutants. Correlating this geographical information with the numbers of women in these highly air polluted areas showed that those in more contaminated regions were actually at a twofold increased risk to have children with autism.

Though this study does suggest that pollutants in the air may in fact play a role, how much of one is not known specifically since other elements can also have effects. The findings of the examination indicate that a closer look is needed into the impact of environmental factors in relation to populations who have autism. Researchers pointed out that though environmental toxins could indeed increase risk factors, things like genetic predispositions or other environmental markers can also be central, and it is not yet known how these interrelate.

Watch this video from CBS News for more information about the study.

Outcomes of research from another study, Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment (CHARGE), showed that children diagnosed with autism had substantially more copy number variants (CNV), which are atypical omissions or replications in DNA. Researchers in the study suggest that the higher the CNV amounts the more the susceptibility to autism, particularly the types onset by duplication.

Looking at information from 516 children with the diagnosis or without, incidences of CNV was in fact much higher in children with autism compared to the other group without.

According to the researchers the results prompt further examination into why the variations occur, as they reminded a specific determinant cannot be established since other issues or combinations of them may have caused the higher occurrences of CNVs, though it is already known that environmental dynamics can certainly have an effect.

Though more research is needed in this area, it is naïve to think that environmental contaminants have no effects on human health and developing systems.


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