Pollution

Air pollution may increase prevalence of autism & schizophrenia

By: Information Daily Staff Writer
Published: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 - 10:45 GMT Jump to Comments

Exposure to air pollution altered development in the brains of mice in ways conducive to autism and schizophrenia, a new study has revealed.

Early exposure to high levels of air pollution may increase the risk of developing autism, schizophrenia or other, less common neurodevelopmental disorders, a report in Environmental Health Perspectives has warned.

The study builds on an overwhelming body of evidence that air pollution can wreak permanent and often ultimately fatal havoc on the body. Just last week, a study confirmed that short-term exposure to air pollution can increase the risk of experiencing irregular heartbeat and blood clots on the lung.

Scientists exposed a group of mice to levels of air pollution, similar to those seen in an average US town during rush hour, for daily four-hour periods over two four-day sessions. After the final session, the brains of the mice were found to be inflamed, with a key area - the lateral ventricles - found to be enlarged to two or three times their normal size.

A white matter which normally develops around the ventricles had failed to grow, meaning that the ventricles had expanded to fill empty space. On average, the lateral ventricles are larger in patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder and Alzheimer's disease. The brain was also found to have high levels of neurotransmitter glutamate, often indicative of autism.

The brain damage appeared permanent, still present in one group of mice 270 days after only a short period of eight days exposure to air pollution. 

"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," said Deborah Cory-Slechta, lead author of the study.

"I think these findings are going to raise new questions about whether the current regulatory standards for air quality are sufficient to protect our children," she added.

 

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