Beware Pregnant Women – Stop Breathing

pregnantI am so angry right now at the recent articles in the news that try to connect air pollution to autism.

This is almost as bad as the whole vaccine-autism link issue, lots of rhetoric and very little scientific substance. One study, using statistics and estimations is trying to create a link between air pollution pregnant women breathe and autism. Specifically, the kind of air pollution created by car exhaust when breathed in during the last trimester of pregnancy. The media is taking this one study and running with it, putting their spin on the information.

There are so many things wrong with this study that I don’t even know where to start. First of all, they used estimates of pollution. Second, there is no way to use a control group and eliminate all of the other possible variables that could cause autism. Maybe they all craved anchovies and that caused the increase in autism (no offense to anchovies.)

As the mother of 2 children, one of whom is on the spectrum, I understand the number of things that pregnant women are not supposed to do for the health of our unborn child. The scientific evidence that connects drinking, drugs and smoking to hurting an unborn baby is overwhelming and direct. The evidence to link air pollution is not. I don’t see a lot of pregnant women willing to stop breathing for the sake of our children or willing to not go outside for the final 3 months of their pregnancy.

The problem with these kinds of studies is that they take information and numbers and play around with them, instead of doing actual scientific experiments. Then the media grabs ahold and spins it to create further hysteria.

Now I am not a scientist, but I know that not everything that we breathe in makes it into our bloodstream. I also know that the placenta helps reduce toxins from getting into the babies blood stream. I think a better study would involve taking actual blood samples from pregnant women over the course of their entire pregnancy as well as air pollution readings. It would also be important to understand how long each woman spends outside, exposed to air pollution. Then follow the development of their child through adulthood. Only then will I believe that air pollution causes autism. I understand that these kinds of experiments would be very costly, require a lot of people to participate and need to last for at least 20 years to show any kind of usable information.

Hey wait – I know – how about we spend that money on creating effective treatments for children and providing transitional training for young adults on the spectrum instead of worrying about figuring out what causes autism. That is where the need is for the next decade or more.

Our children are growing up and there are only limited services available for housing, transition to college, transition to jobs and help with independent living. This is where the crisis lies and this is where we need to focus our time and energy.

Comments are open and can be viewed at the end of the post.

  • Matt says:

    “I’m not a scientist, but” says it all. The rest is anti science and you describing a totally unethical study.

    The study concludes “Conclusions: Higher maternal exposure to PM2.5 during pregnancy, in particular the third trimester, was associated with greater odds of her child having ASD.”

  • peter bowell says:

    While it certainly premature to determine if there is a causal relationship between air pollution and autism, it is equally wrong to dismiss out of hand the latest report of a possible linkage. To the best of my knowledge there have been at least seven reports showing a possible linkage. Far from being a waste of time and money, epidemiological studies are the cornerstone of public health research and can lead to an understanding of the aetiology of the condition.

  • Magnus Hedemark says:

    Whenever I read about modern junk science explanations for the “autism epidemic”, I can’t help but facepalm. The numbers are higher now because our diagnostic capabilities have improved, and the definition of the spectrum has changed with our understanding of it.

    If modern industry or medical science is to blame for autism, what happened to Leonardo da Vinci? Why can’t he just be a beautiful human being who was born different from most other people?

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