WEDNESDAY, Sept. 21, 2022 (HealthDay News) — May air pollution putting autistic children in the hospital?

Short-term exposure to air pollution is associated with a higher risk of hospitalization for children with developmental disabilities, a new study has found.

People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often end up with symptoms such as hyperactivity, aggression and self-injury. While neuroinflammation and systemic inflammation can be alleviated with medication, diet and supplements, short-term exposure to air pollution can exacerbate these symptoms, a study from Korea has found.

A developing child’s nervous system is also more susceptible to environmental influences than an adult’s nervous system, scientists note.

“This study suggests that short-term exposure to air pollution affects the exacerbation of ASD symptoms, which are more prominent among boys than among girls,” said researchers led by Dr. Yoon-Chul Hong of the Institute of Public Health and Medical Assistance at Seoul National University Hospital. National University and Department of Preventive Medicine, Seoul National University College of Medicine.

For the study, researchers used data from the South Korean government on daily hospitalizations of children ages 5 to 14 for autism between 2011 and 2015.

The research team also collected information on national daily levels small particles (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and ozone (O3) in each of South Korea’s 16 regions for up to six days.

Analyzing the numbers, the team found that exposure to pollutants was associated with a higher risk of hospitalization for children with autism, particularly boys.

For PM2.5, each increase of 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air was associated with a 17% increased risk of autism hospitalization. An increase of 10 parts per billion in NO2 was associated with a 9% increase in risk, and for O3 it was associated with a 3% increase in risk.

The researchers estimated that exposure to these pollutants was associated with a 29% higher risk of hospitalization for autism, with NO2 having the greatest effect. Hospitalized for hyperactivity, aggression or self-harm.

The findings were published on September 20 BMJ.

“These results highlight the need to consider reducing exposure to air pollution [autism] symptom management, which has important implications for quality of life and economic costs,” the researchers said in a journal press release.

Limitations of the study included that it measured regional rather than local air pollution levels and that children with mild autism may be less likely to receive psychiatric treatment and thus were not included in the study. Additionally, the study only found an association between pollution levels and hospitalizations, not cause and effect.

Additional information

The US Environmental Protection Agency has more air pollution.

SOURCE: BMJnews release 09/20/2022

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