Researchers find link between air pollution and autism

Jun 6, 2014

Dr. Deborah Cory-Slechta, professor of Environmental Medicine at the U of R
Credit Alex Crichton/WXXI News

A new study suggests that there may be a link to exposure to air pollution and developmental disorders like autism.

Dr. Dr. Deborah Cory-Slechta is Professor of Environmental Medicine at the U of R Medical Center and lead author of the study.

She says when newborn mice were exposed to air pollution -- especially ultrafine particle pollution -- there was an enlargement in the parts of the brain that is seen in humans who have autism and schizophrenia.

She says there was also an enlargement in the ventricles in the brain, and the disappearance or non-development of white matter that connects both sides of the brain.

Cory-Slechta adds the mice also had elevated levels of glutamate, also seen in humans with autism and schizophrenia.

And the changes in the brain occurred predominately in males, which is interesting because autism is more prevalent in males than females.

Dr. Cory-Slechta says the findings add to the growing evidence that air pollution may play a role in developmental disorders.

She says it also calls into question how we regulate air pollution, because they are finding the smallest, ultrafine particles of pollution are the most toxic.

The study is published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Dr. Cory-Slechta and her colleague Dr. Joshua Allen discuss their findings in this video.