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Nationwide Study Links Air Pollution and Autism Risk

inversion over salt lake valley.
Flickr Creative Commons

A new study released from the Harvard School of Public Health shows a link between exposure to particulate air pollution and autism.

The study found that women exposed to high levels of fine particulate matter during their third trimester face a greater risk of having a child with autism than mothers living in areas with low levels. This is concerning for Ingrid Griffe, the Executive Director of Utah Moms for Clean Air.

“This is more evidence to indicate how dangerous our smog can be and especially to the most vulnerable people in our community,” Griffe says.  

The study averages pollution exposure over 3 month periods for mothers around the country. But Utah’s levels of fine particulate matter are highly variable and tend to come in spikes during winter inversions. Senior author Marc Weisskopf says it’s not clear whether steady exposure to low levels or a short spike have the same effect on autism risk.

“We don’t know whether those both do the same thing or whether one is worse than the other. Our sort of assumption without any other data on this would be that it would be the same, but we can’t definitively answer that unless we look in more fine detail at spikes like that,” Weisskopf says.

The study was published in the December 18th edition of Environmental Health Perspectives.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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