Freeway Pollution Linked to Brain Damage, Autism

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Robert Lee Hotz of the Wall Street Journal, of all places, put it best: "Congested cities are fast becoming test tubes for scientists studying the impact of traffic fumes on the brain."

And what are these researchers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Boston, New York, North Carolina, Beijing, Poland and the Netherlands finding? That exposure to air pollution, particularly to vehicle exhaust, can be linked to brain damage, anxiety, depression, attention problems and autism, and also possibly heighten the risk of Alzheimer's disease and speed the effects of Parkinson's disease.

Cars and trucks are cleaner than they were in 1970, but motorists are spending much more time behind the wheel stuck in traffic, as anyone in Orange County making the commute to, well, just about anywhere knows.

Overexposure to polluted air has long been associated with asthma and higher rates of heart disease, cancer and respiratory illness. But new public-health studies and laboratory experiments suggest that, at every stage of life, traffic fumes exact a measurable toll on mental capacity, intelligence and emotional stability, the Journal reports.

"There is real cause for concern," neurochemist Annette Kirshner at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) at Research Triangle Park in North Carolina reportedly says."But we ought to proceed with caution."

The NIEHS is part of the National Institutes of Health, and both are partners--along with the Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention--in the National Children's Study led by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development.

The research, which includes findings from the Los Angeles-Ventura Study Center, has already found children born to mothers in high pollution areas are much more likely to develop autism. Independent of gender, ethnicity and education levels, children born to mother residing within 1,000 feet of major roads or freeways in LA, San Francisco or Sacramento are twice as likely to have autism, the study suggests.

Meanwhile, researchers in Boston have discovered older men and women long exposed to higher levels of traffic-related particles suffer memory and reasoning problems that effectively add five years to their mental age.


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8 comments
CHS
CHS

We lived many miles from the freeway.  Alas, we didn't take into account the nuclear power plant for a neighbor coupled with heavy intake of pep pills, booze and cigarettes.

In other words, some researcher got a big government grant and had to publish something to justify it.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Proposing regulations in this area is the very thing republican politicians are against.

Dweezle.Di
Dweezle.Di

I have read where they are claiming Autism is caused by certain components of childhood immunizations...

anotheruselessarticle
anotheruselessarticle

First of all, this is OLD "news". This was stated about a year and a half ago (perhaps longer). Second, sure toxins do cause autism but can't explain it all. It's a 20 min. drive to the nearest freeway to my house. I didn't live by a freeway while pregnant either. I didn't use a cell phone (didn't actually own one) and I was 29 yrs old when I had my child (some studies try to link ADVANCED maternal age to autism). This is just another blip on the radar screen going out of the way to blame the parents for their child's diagnoses. Sorry, but you lived near a freeway. Sorry, you ate pickles while pregnant. Sorry, but your family has a history of the third toe on the left foot being too large. These are ALL reasons why your child has autism. Yes, toxins CAUSE autism but not just the kind that comes exclusively from freeways.

Matthew T. Coker
Matthew T. Coker

That would make sense if it was one research arm tied to one grant. These are several researchers across the world, performing their own individual tests in their areas, reaching the same conclusions. 

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

I think politicians on both sides of the aisle will ignore this study because they'd rather blame diseases caused by air pollution from numerous sources squarely on tobacco users and not (God forbid) demand that major commercial polluters clean up their act. And no, I'm not saying tobacco smoking isn't bad for you or that it doesn't pollute the environment, but can you really place the blame for your lung disease or your child's asthma on the cigarette smoker three apartments down instead of the exhaust belching from the thousands of vehicles on the streets/freeway you live near? We live in a veritable soup of chemicals from many many sources, but it's much more PC to blame the guy smoking a cigarette for all the damage being done...

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