Highway Hype: Could Living Near a Freeway Cause Autism?

Living too close to freeway may harm children

Even before conception takes place, women are given a long list of pregnancy dos and don’ts to help ensure the arrival of a healthy baby. Especially for first-time mothers, the list of don’ts can be overwhelming. From not eating certain kinds of cheese to not dyeing your hair to staying away from your cat’s litter box the don’ts list just gets more peculiar as it grows. And now there’s another new odd pregnancy ‘don’t’ that just made the list — don’t live near a highway.

That’s right, a new study is suggesting that where you live could also have a lifelong effect on your baby. Research has shown that there may be a correlation between living near a freeway during pregnancy and having a child diagnosed with autism. In this study, living within 1,000 feet of a freeway at birth was associated with an almost doubled risk for autism.

And as great as it is that researchers are uncovering some of the environmental factors that may play a role in causing autism, the information can be really frightening for new moms.  Because if you happen to be pregnant or trying to get pregnant and like many Americans live in an urban area, moving may not be an option.

For most pregnant women, moving is not an option, but there are things you can do to create a healthier prenatal “toxic” free environment. If you do live by a freeway, make sure to change the air filters in heating and air conditioning units regularly to keep pollutants out. Additionally, try and limit your exposure to toxins in your own home. For example, if you live in an older home, have the paint tested for lead.

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  • The lab report of this study is like so many studies that get published. The studies do not have enough factual data to draw a solid conclusion. I am not completely dismissing the correlation made in this study, I do agree that “the findings” of this study do make some sense; however, I think that there are other important variables overlooked. Housing within 1,000ft of a highway is generally cheaper than 3.2 miles from a highway. With this in mind, it would seem that families living within 1,000ft of a highway may be lower income. If this is the case that most of these families are lower income, then they may not be able to have correct diets. I do not know if my inference is correct, but I do know that the study is not conclusive and variables have been overlooked.

    Anyway, I agree that there are so many “don’ts” for pregnant women. I think that inundating pregnant women with all of these “don’ts” is likely to cause them stress and in turn be harmful to them and their baby.

  • The World Health Organization reports that the greatest concentrations of particulate matter particles are found in countries with low economic world power and high poverty and population growth rates.

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