New research from the University of Southern California shows air pollution increases the risk for autism among those who carry a genetic disposition for the disorder. Heather E. Volk, a scientist at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, said the research showed children with a risk genotype and high air pollution exposure were at an increased risk of autism spectrum disorder.
The study’s senior author, Daniel Campbell, an assistant professor of psychiatry and the behavioral sciences at the school, called the research “the first demonstration of a specific interaction between a well-established genetic risk factor and an environmental factor that independently contribute to autism risk.”
Campbell and Volk’s team studied 408 children between ages 2 and 5. Of those, 252 met the criteria for autism or autism spectrum disorder. The researchers determined air pollution exposure by examining past residences of the children and their mothers, local traffic-related sources, and regional air quality measures.
The scientists will next study the link between the gene and air pollution in mothers during pregnancy.