Exposure to environmental pollution may cause brain changes that make people more vulnerable to developing autism or schizophrenia, according to a new study published in Environmental Heath Perspectives. The study showed that the inflammation in the brains of the mice was observed 40 and 270 days after air pollution exposure, meaning that the negative effects were permanent. Moreover, researchers found an increase in glutamate levels, which is seen in humans with autism.
“Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that air pollution may play a role in autism, as well as in other neurodevelopmental disorders,” Deborah Cory-Slechta, professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester and lead author of the study said. This study adds to the growing mountain of research suggesting that pollution poses even more serious risks to our health than previously known, and that autism in particular is greatly affected by environmental factors.
There are now several studies that have shown this same link. One of the first, published in JAMA Psychiatry in October of 2013, worked to make a connection between pollution and autism. Researchers found that children who lived in areas with high levels of traffic pollution seemed to be more likely to be diagnosed with the neurodevelopmental disorder.
“We see changes in learning produced by these exposures in males and females, and in levels of activity, and we saw deficits in memory in both males and females,” Cory-Slechta said. “We also had a measure of attention, looking at impulsive-like behaviors, which we only tested in males, and there, too, we saw the effects of postnatal exposure.”
The research can make a connection between autism and pollution exposure, which could lead to a better understanding of the damaging effects of superfine pollution particles.