Air pollution linked to autism and schizophrenia

 

A new study has revealed that exposure to air pollution damages the brain of developing mice, affecting the same area of the brain that is known to play a role in autism and schizophrenia in humans. 

Researchers from the University of Rochester in the US found that when mice were regularly exposed to fine particle pollution in the first two weeks of their life, they developed a range of brain abnormalities which are consistent with patterns seen in humans suffering from schizophrenia and autism. These harmful effects were mainly observed in the male mice; a finding that corresponds to the fact that boys and men are more likely to be diagnosed with both of these disorders.  

“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, professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester and lead author of the study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Exposure to fine particle air pollution was found to cause inflammation in the brains of the young mice, damaging the development of white matter. The lateral ventricles, cavities in the brain which are filled with cerebrospinal fluid and protect the brain from trauma, were found to be enlarged to up to three times their normal size, filling up the free space in the underdeveloped brains. This dilation of the ventricles has previously been linked to autism and schizophrenia in humans. In addition, after breathing the contaminated air, the male mice exhibited a high level of glutamate in the brain, a neurotransmitter found to be abnormally high in individuals suffering from these same two conditions.

The air pollution created in the lab by Cory-Slechta and her colleagues matches the level typically present during rush hour in a medium-sized US city. The mice were exposed to the impure air for four hours a day during four days of their first week of life, followed by a further four days during the second week after birth. Developmentally, these timings correspond to the period just before and just after birth in human babies. The study focused on the ultrafine particles in polluted air, believed by the researchers to be more detrimental to health than their larger counterparts, which can be filtered out by the nose and lungs. Although most previous research on the adverse health effects of pollution has focused on the consequences for the respiratory system and heart function, earlier studies have linked airborne pollutants to other neurodevelopmental problems, including cognitive decline and depression.

The new findings correspond with a recent study by researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of California, in which children who spent their first year of life in areas with high levels of air pollution were found to be three times as likely to develop autism than those starting out in cleaner surroundings. Currently, an estimated one per cent of people in the UK could be affected by a disorder on the autistic spectrum. The prevalence of autism is growing, and researchers are keen to understand the reasons behind what some describe as an "autism epidemic". Earlier this month a report emerged linking the condition to higher levels of testosterone in the womb. Schizophrenia affects a similar number of people, and, like autism, its causes are far from being fully understood.

According to Cory-Slechta, her discovery does not necessarily mean that pollution is responsible for causing autism or schizophrenia. "I never use the word 'causes,'" she told USA Today. "I try to make people understand it's the interaction of all these risk factors in your life, over your lifespan, that come together."

However, she does believe that changes in regulation should be considered: “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”.

VIDEO: CLICK HERE TO WATCH A VIDEO ON LIVING WITH AUTISM
News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence