Car Exhaust Fumes & Air Pollution Are Contributing Factors To Increase In Autism
Autism Air Pollution Linked
WebMD | Archives of General Psychiatry publication of National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the University of California Davis MIND Institute Study | Nov. 26, 2012 -- Being exposed to high levels of air pollution from traffic may raise the risk of autism, researchers say. "Children exposed to higher levels of traffic-related pollutants during pregnancy or during the first year of life were at increased risk of autism compared to children exposed to the lowest level," says Heather E. Volk, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of research at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. Autism affects about 1 in 88 children in the U.S.
The study gathered data on children based on their addresses and proximity to areas with busy traffic patterns, air pollution, particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide emission.
A direct cause and effect cannot be affirmed due to many other risks including prenatal smoking, the mother's age, race, and ethnicity. However, recommendations to limit outdoor time on poor air quality days may lower risk.
Air Pollution Effects Growth and Development
LATEST NEWS: Autism from Automobile Exhaust Fumes
We may be seeing a correlation between environmental pollutants and increased incidence of autism. Some new data indicates a doubling of risk for those living near highway traffic. We know that polluted airways contribute to asthma. We also can tally up the chemicals spewed into the atmosphere, which have devastating effects upon the growth of organisms.
As a teen forty years ago, I remember doing growth studies of plants along highways and the resultant dwarf specimens. We did spectrometer measurements to visualize the chemical components and if there were heavy metals. Those were the days of the fall-out and bomb shelters when we were afraid nations would blow each other off the face of the earth.
Instead, we are slowly killing future generations because we haven't figured out how to invest in mass transit and clean energy sources. Forty years ago we had the information. And, still we did not develop solar and electric cars. We bear the consequences in our children.
Children in families who live near freeways are twice as likely to have autism as kids who live off the beaten path. Researchers in Los Angeles looked at 304 children with autism and 259 normally developing children and found that those whose moms were living within 1,000 feet of a freeway when they gave birth had a increased risk for autism.
This short list car exhaust chemicals could certainly effect growing fetuses and mental function in young children:
- Carbon Monoxide
- Nitrogen dioxide
- Sulphur dioxide
- Suspended particles, PM-10 particles less than 10 microns in size.
- Polycyclic hydrocarbons
Autism Video Shown Below: Growing autism rates and the future of autism research; How air pollution can make us sick and what we can do to clean up our air Series: "UC Davis Frontiers" [6/2007] [Public Affairs] [Health and Medicine] [Science] [Show ID: 12865]
Autism is a biological, emotional, genetic and chemical disease. The brains of autistic children grow faster. The total brain and parts of the brain mature too fast and probably absorbs many chemicals in the environment.
Congested Highways & Automobile Exhaust Fumes
What you cannot see can harm you. We have more to worry about the invisible fumes than the large particles. Remember the fetus is effected by what crosses into the placenta from the blood of the mother.
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless and toxic gas produced as a by-product of combustion. Carbon monoxide inhibits the blood's ability to carry oxygen to body tissues including vital organs such as the heart and brain. When CO is inhaled, it combines with the oxygen carrying hemoglobin of the blood to form carboxyhemoglobin (COHb). Once combined with the hemoglobin, that hemoglobin is no longer available for transporting oxygen. We all know that people commit suicide by leaving the car running in their garage and breathing this gas.
Check out the OSHA regulations on nitrous dioxide an unstable explosive gas. Summary of toxicology
- Learning about Nitrous Dioxide, another name for nitrogen oxide.
- Laughing Gas Nitrous Oxide Do not confuse Nitrous Dioxide with Nitrous Oxide
- Fire and Explosive Hazards
- EPA Nitrous Dioxide
Effects on Humans: Nitrous oxide is an asphyxiant at high concentrations. At lower concentrations, exposure causes central nervous system, cardiovascular, hepatic, hematopoietic, and reproductive effects in humans [Hathaway et al. 1991]. At a concentration of 50 to 67 percent (500,000 to 670,000 ppm) nitrous oxide is used to induce anesthesia in humans [Rom 1992].
Patients exposed to a 50:50 mixture of nitrous oxide:oxygen for prolonged periods to induce continuous sedation developed bone marrow depression and granulocytopenia [Hathaway et al. 1991; ACGIH 1991]. Although most patients recover, several deaths from aplastic anemia have been reported [Hathaway et al. 1991].
Neurotoxic effects occur after acute exposure to concentrations of 80,000 to 200,000 ppm and above; effects include slowed reaction times and performance decrements [Hathaway et al. 1991]. Long-term occupational exposure (dentists, dental assistants) has been associated with numbness, difficulty in concentrating, paresthesias, and impairment of equilibrium [Hathaway et al. 1991; ACGIH 1991]. In one study, exposure to 50 ppm nitrous oxide was associated with a decrement in audiovisual performance, but this result has not been duplicated in other studies [ACGIH 1991]. Epidemiological studies, primarily of operating room personnel, have shown increased risks of spontaneous abortion, premature delivery, and involuntary infertility among these occupationally exposed populations [ACGIH 1991; Hathaway et al. 1991].
Relationship Between Autism and Air Pollution
Sulphur dioxide is prevalent in air pollution. High concentrations of sulfur dioxide (SO2) can result in breathing problems with asthmatic children and adults who are active outdoors. Short-term exposure has been linked to wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. Other effects associated with longer-term exposure to sulfur dioxide, in conjunction with high levels of particulate soot, include respiratory illness, alterations in the lungs' defenses and aggravation of existing cardiovascular disease.
If a person is not receiving enough oxygen in the blood from the lungs this means the brain is not receiving enough oxygen to function properly.
We are paying the price for the convenience of our vehicles. One of the most hazardous components from auto exhaust fumes may exhibit these short term effects simply from breathing benzene:
- Rapid pulse
- Loss of consciousness
- Damage to the nervous system
- Suppression of the immune system
If a person is exposed day after day to benzene more serious effects results:
- Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a type of cancer that affects the blood
- Secondary Aplastic Anemia
- Damage to the reproductive system
- Types of leukemia
- Severe anemia
Formaldehyde is know to cause birth defects. We remember dissecting a frog in biology class that smelled strongly from this preservative. It is used in particleboard products and as an intermediate in the synthesis of other chemicals.
Exposure to formaldehyde may occur by breathing contaminated indoor air, tobacco smoke, or ambient urban air. Acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) inhalation exposure to formaldehyde in humans can result in respiratory symptoms, and eye, nose, and throat irritation. Limited human studies have reported an association between formaldehyde exposure and lung and nasopharyngeal cancer. Animal inhalation studies have reported an increased incidence of nasal squamous cell cancer. EPA considers formaldehyde a probable human carcinogen. EPA
Polycyclic hydrocarbons are prevalent in our society. I even learned they can be found in our shampoo. It is not just one chemical. PAHs are a group of approximately 10,000 compounds.
When our cars are not tuned up or most efficient in combustion the PAHs are emitted into the atmosphere. Many useful products such as mothballs, blacktop, and creosote wood preservatives contain PAHs. They are also found at low concentrations in some special-purpose skin creams and anti-dandruff shampoos that contain coal tars.
Automobile exhaust, industrial emissions and smoke from burning wood, charcoal and tobacco contain high levels of PAHs. In general, more PAHs form when materials burn at low temperatures, such as in wood fires or cigarettes. High-temperature furnaces produce fewer PAHs. Fires can form fine PAH particles. They bind to ash particles and can move long distances through the air. Some PAHs can dissolve in water. PAHs can enter groundwater from ash, tar, or creosote that is improperly disposed in landfills.
Breathing: Most people are exposed to PAHs when they breathe smoke, auto emissions or industrial exhausts. Most exhausts contain many different PAH compounds. People with the highest exposures are smokers, people who live or work with smokers, roofers, road builders and people who live near major highways or industrial sources.
Considering the fragile nature of a fetus and the rapidity in which it grows, the intact of these compounds can effect respiratory and nervous systems. For those living and working near exhaust fumes from autos the following effects may result:
Cancer: Benzo(a)pyrene, a common PAH, is shown to cause lung and skin cancer in laboratory animals. Other PAHs are not known to have this effect. Extracts of various types of smoke containing PAHs caused lung tumors in laboratory animals. Cigarette smoke will cause lung cancer.
Reproductive Effects: Reproductive problems and problems in unborn babies’ development have occurred in laboratory animals that were exposed to benzo(a)pyrene. Other PAHs have not been studied enough to determine whether they cause reproductive problems.
Organ Systems: A person’s lungs, liver, skin, and kidneys can be damaged by exposure.
The Short List
The chemicals listed above were just a few of the potentially hazardous fumes from automobiles being dispersed into our atmosphere daily. We don't think about it because we really can't see these gases as they dissipate into the sky. However, not only aren't we getting much needed exercise, those walking, strolling or running adjacent to the highway are effected in immeasurable ways.
The Fetal Circulatory System
Research Shows The Fetus Takes In Much More
Throughout the fetal stage of development, the maternal blood supplies the fetus with O2 and nutrients and carries away its wastes. The concentration of hemoglobin in fetal blood is about 50 % greater than in maternal blood. Fetal hemoglobin is slightly different chemically and has a greater affinity for O2 than maternal hemoglobin. At a particular oxygen partial pressure, fetal hemoglobin can carry 20-30% more O2 than maternal hemoglobin.
“During most of pregnancy, the placenta separating mother and fetus is only one cell thick,” Koren tells me. “But it has an array of mechanisms to help it do its job of protecting the fetus.” These subcellular tools, he explains, include tiny pumps that expel toxins before they can do any damage, immune agents that guard the placenta’s perimeter, and placental enzymes that chemically break down intruding molecules. This armamentarium does an impressive job of blocking bacteria from reaching the fetus, but it lets other substances sail right through.
“The criteria that determine whether a molecule crosses the placenta include its size, its electrical charge, and its solubility,” says Koren. “Not, notice, whether it is harmful or not.” Particles that are small, that are neutrally charged, and that easily dissolve in fat will be waved past the placenta’s layers of security, regardless of their potential toxicity. [Source]
Now that this link has been made between automobile exhaust fumes and brain development leading to autism, we must be even more vigilant. We can now look to the interior of our homes for chemical vapors from all kinds of manufactured products.
We used to have a saying, "Better Living Through Chemistry." As a naturalist, I remain in opposition to this premise.
Becoming A World Citizen
- U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
View Archived Webcast: Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics, and Environmental Health Field Hearing entitled, "Toxic Chemicals and Childrens Environmental Health." Tuesday, October 26, 2010
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Last updated on June 27, 2014
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