Our economy runs on diesel. It's burned in the road-going rigs that bring us everything from potatoes to potpourris. If it's on a store shelf, it likely arrived by oil-burning truck. Increasingly, diesel engines are also finding a home in our passenger cars, migrating from Europe, where they've long been popular.

And why not? With a higher energy density than gasoline, diesel fuel gives us more miles per gram of emitted CO2 and the engines that use it tend to give us motivational torque in a lower RPM range, where it's more useful. It appears, however, that there may be some substantial trade-offs when it comes to the effect of their exhaust particulate on our most precious resource: our children.

Women exposed to higher air pollution levels during their pregnancies were twice as likely to give birth to an autistic child.

A large, new study makes a solid link between air pollution and incidences of autism, with diesel particulate and mercury named as the most significant contributors. Research from the Harvard University's School of Public Health, drawing on 116,430 participants in the ongoing Nurses' Health Study, found that women exposed to higher air pollution levels during their pregnancies were twice as likely to give birth to an autistic child than those living in a cleaner environment. Previous studies have found similar connections.

The works don't, of course, suggest that this association means air pollution causes autism, only that there is a contributory link. Future research should involve taking blood samples from both mothers and babies to see exactly which chemicals are involved.

While pollution from both diesel exhaust and coal-powered electricity generation – a major contributor to air-borne mercury – has decreased over the 24-year period over which the study sample was taken, we hope this kind of work will provide impetus for further improvements.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 80 Comments
      foxylynx
      • 1 Year Ago
      Seems every week there is a new cause of autism! They should look into all the chemicals in the food we eat.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @foxylynx
        you are right on point. It is shocking when you find out how foods are processed, meats shot full of antibiotics, etc., and I have been, as most busy parents are, so busy and worn out that I, unaware of all dangerous processes, grabbed what is on the shelf that my children would eat. We trust that the products we purchase are safe but, really, how much oversight and TRUTH do we have ?
        lonerngr88
        • 1 Year Ago
        @foxylynx
        The human body can only take so much toxic abuse before dysfunction starts. Neuro-toxins and endocrine disruptors are all around us, effecting our physical and behavioral health. There are over 25 neurotoxins and 2 carcinogens in fragranced laundry products alone, which are absorbed thru breathing and thru your skin. BPA in bottles, chemical preservatives in food and injectable drugs, pesticides permeate GMO foods like corn and soy, air fresheners spewing fragranced toxins... Until we deal with what is upsetting our body's functions there will be no change in the amount of mental disturbances.
      • 1 Year Ago
      As an Honorably Discharged Veteran having worked with/been exposed to/numerous toxic chemicals including Lead, Mercury, PCP's, etc., etc., without being informed of any potential health hazards while stationed on NPL Military Waste Sites and living the consequences as is my son (and to no surprise either of us is considered "of any value"), I am not surprised.
      2 wheeled menace
      • 1 Year Ago
      Utah is absolutely full of folks on the autistic spectrum. Never met so many in my life since i moved here. The valley part of the state is an effin' smog bowl in winter, and fairly bad in the summer too. Since we have seasonal smog for the most part, this would be a great place to do a study.
        purrpullberra
        • 1 Year Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        How can one sperate the air pollution effect from the lifestyle choices effects on the level of retardation in Utah children. Choosing to be Mormon tends to incriminate a persons intelligence level. No different than any other religion. Only the law of averages has kept Utah from being 100% mentally disabled. Stupid people will eventually, accidentally produce an offspring that is much more intelligent than either parent.
          2 wheeled menace
          • 1 Year Ago
          @purrpullberra
          All religions are crazy, mormonism is just right in between christianity and scientology on the nutter scale.. but i don't discriminate, i think the 90% of the population that believes in any sky man is nuts.. :P Autism/aspergers gives people certain characteristics, but does not seem to affect IQ levels too much. Some austistic-spectrum folks exhibit intelligence levels far beyond the norm. Some autistic people may exhibit traits of retardation, but often are not really retarded.
          Marco Polo
          • 1 Year Ago
          @purrpullberra
          @ Vlad But, where does it stop ? If you can revile someone for belonging to a religion, why not their race, or gender ? Why is saying " Choosing to be Mormon tends to (sic) 'incriminate' a persons intelligence level", acceptable, yet there would (and quite rightly) be an outcry against someone saying the same thing about a person belonging to the Jewish faith ? I agree with you that all beliefs, religious or not, should open to critique, but too often that critique descends into an excuse for bigotry and hatred. It's all too easy to open Pandora's box, then say, "Oh, but I never meant it to go that far, I never meant it to be personal " .
          Marcopolo
          • 1 Year Ago
          @purrpullberra
          @ purrpullberra, 2 wheeled menace Being disrespectful of other peoples belief's, displays not a lack intelligence on their part, but a lack of tolerance and self-esteem in your personal philosophy. Unreasonable attacks and bigotry towards the beliefs of others, only engenders the necessity for others to defend their belief's, leading to an escalation of conflict. Extremists arise, due to a perception of persecution. The Mormon's escaped violet persecution in the 19th century, by travelling to Utah. The US has enough decisiveness and conflict among it's citizens, why seek to create more in the 21st century ?
          Marcopolo
          • 1 Year Ago
          @purrpullberra
          @ 2 wheeled menace The right to '' speak your mind" carries with it a responsibility not to do so, if it causes gratuitous offence to others.
          Vlad
          • 1 Year Ago
          @purrpullberra
          @Marcopolo It is absolutely vital that people are allowed to hold whatever beliefs they want. It is also absolutely vital that people can critique those beliefs. There is no obligation to never offend anyone else's religion.
          2 wheeled menace
          • 1 Year Ago
          @purrpullberra
          I'm tolerant of people's beliefs, just not afraid to speak my mind. I like the mormons out here, as well as their story, independence, and prepper attitude. Just think that their beliefs are insane, same as pretty much every other religion. Don't think i'm singling anyone out here :) I do doubt that i'm creating any significant conflict with my comment. No butterfly effect to be had. Everything's gonna be ok, Marco ;)
          2 wheeled menace
          • 1 Year Ago
          @purrpullberra
          Sometimes people deserve to be offended. I would not be who i am today if my cage was not rattled.
        lord.phaggle
        • 1 Year Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        Ohhhhh. So that's why Mormons are so weird.
        DaveMart
        • 1 Year Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        'Utah has some of the worst air quality in the nation and it leads the country in the highest rates of children with autism. "It is now affecting one in 32 Utah boys,” said Dr. Brian Moench. Dr. Moench is the President of the Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment. He's been petitioning Utah lawmakers since 2007 to do something about the state's poor air quality. Dr. Moench told ABC 4 Utah, “They're saying let's clean up the air, but at the same time they're building more freeways in Davis County; they're allowing oil refineries to expand."' http://www.abc4.com/content/news/state/story/New-study-links-air-pollution-with-autism/-n0upl4Ng0q1Z1u7hkponw.cspx
      • 1 Year Ago
      Since it is not possible and unethical/moral to expose fetuses in utero with any environmental contaminants the study Review of Animal Models for Autism: implication of thyroid hormone ( Sadamatsu, 2006) has used animal models. The rat models suggested that during the critical period of brain development, rats, when given propylthiouracil (PTU) in their drinking water passed it in to their offspring. This produced hypothyroidism behavior. Their results indicated "mild hypothyroidism around the critical period causes permanent impairment of brain function..." Another article by Colburn (2004) also linked the possibility that environmental "contaminants contribute to the increasing prevalence of ADHD, autism, and associated neurodevelopmental and behavioral problems..." Colburn reported that "herbicides cover more than 14% of the land surface in the United States." There are also no standards for testing chemicals that are capable of disrupting the endocrine system. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says there is an estimated "87,000 chemicals in use today." Just one of those contaminants is called Perchlorate. Perchlorate is both manmade and found in the environment. According to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (2012) there is an increasingly amount of Perchlorate found in our groundwater, surface water, and soil. It is also used for rocket fuel, missiles, highway safety flares, fireworks, common batteries, auto restraint systems. As the need to dispose of rocket fuel increases because of its short shelf-life (Bekkedal, 2003) the levels of contamination are increasing. Twenty states have reported Perchlorate contamination. Perchlorate, herbicides, pesticides, and plastics (Colborn, 2004) can interfere with the normal production of thyroid hormones and damage the developing CNS and neurobehavioral capacities (Bekkedal, 2003) of a fetus. As we see this increase of such poisons and pollutants perhaps this is the cause of the raise in autism. We know that synthetic chemicals can cross the placenta to the fetus. We saw this with thalidomide. Pregnant mothers were given thalidomide to alleviate morning sickness and many babies were born without limbs. As stated earlier autism is a complex and difficult syndrome to find its etiology. My hope is that as the research grows and knowledge increases we will have insight into the impact environmental contaminants have on the endocrine system. Vaccines may or may not play a part in ASD but the damage to our CNS and brain development through the pollutants is unequivocal. We wreak havoc on our earth and our human bodies feel it as well. We take care of Mother Earth we are taking care of ourselves, our future, and the future of those who will develop ASD
        M
        • 1 Year Ago
        Lots of info in your comment, thanks. Your mention of thyroid hormone brings some studies to mind that did not mention "long term" implications. The published study info involved human consumption of beef thyroid in ground beef. College age 'volunteers' were used in studies slanted toward behavioral issues, like ADHD and hyperactivity, and discovered that even well-done hamburgers caused nearly immediately observable effects in the test subjects in a blind study eating burgers with/without thyroid content! The conclusion? Beef thyroids were deemed as "Unfit For Human Consumption", BECAUSE the hormone was absorbed by eating even heavily cooked meat. Now, "inquiring minds" might wonder just what has become of that "red meat", (i.e. thyroids that is). Is it used for/in animal feed? Pet food? "Fertilizer"? Is it destroyed/wasted? That has to be a significant amount of "meat" after all is said and done, and can/do USDA inspectors find violators where thyroids are channeled into human food, (regardless of intent that is: ignorance, greed, thoughtless/careless disregard)? The study was pretty clear that thyroid hormone survives cooking, but didn't attempt to trace if it carried into other human food, (animal "byproducts" used in animal feed are fed to other species to avoid carrying diseases into the same species, WHEN DONE ACCORDING TO STANDARDS; back to enforcement/inspections questions). I would wonder IF it is used in agricultural fertilizer, would there be ANY testing of vegetable products for an "animal" item like thyroid hormone? Testing would be unlikely IMHO... But, the odd thing about hormones is they are chemical compounds, and **might be** picked up in some food crops without being broken down... Just a thought. Like "the" cure for cancer, or the common cold, there is no magic bullet that gets rid of ALL of them, so there should be multiple paths of investigation. BTW, those that KNOW, already know hormones are endocrines, and you mentioned thyroid and endocrine disruptors - already multiple **paths**.
      EVSUPERHERO
      • 1 Year Ago
      It's like global warming. Is it man made? Those who don't think it is have good reason to change nothing and continue to spew toxins into the air unfettered. Those who think it is man made want stronger regulations before it is to late to reverse. I side with Elon Musk on this. "We only have one atmosphere, it seems unintelligent to play Russianrulette with it."
      DaveMart
      • 1 Year Ago
      There has been good evidence for this link previously, but the studies were on nothing like this scale: http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/news/20121121/air-pollution-autism-risk For the new study, she looked at data from 279 children with autism and a comparison group of 245 children without it.
      EZEE
      • 1 Year Ago
      And yet the Europeans encourage the use of diesel fuel, opposed to other, cleaner fuels. In light of such studies, who will stand up for the children of this world? Who? I will. (Hat tip Rak)
        mylexicon
        • 1 Year Ago
        @EZEE
        Interesting that many European nations have significantly lower incidence of autism. My sister is an autism specialist. Autism correlates with mercury levels. The Great Salt Lake Basin has the highest mercury toxicity levels in the country, and Utah has serious autism problems. Diesel emissions contain mercury, but overall mercury emissions have fallen and pollution controls have tightened as autism rates have risen. Most of the recent studies focus on the effects of hormones from birth control to testosterone replacement to the junk we feed our livestock. I don't know if this study was funded by a natural gas lobby or if ABG is just clutching at straws, but this is a bit of a time waster.
          mylexicon
          • 1 Year Ago
          @mylexicon
          The mercury levels cause problems for waterfowl, insects, and all animals who prey on any of those creatures. The lake is also important to many industries for salts, fertilizers, etc. It's also a recreation area. But its not necessarily the lake that could be causing the problems. If the east side of the Great Basin is a collection point for natural or man-made mercury emissions (old coal power), the entire area could be a problem. Overall though, this doesn't explain the sharp rise in autism during declining mercury emissions and stricter particulate emissions regulations. People have started looking at hormones b/c they've become a ubiquitous part of modern US life. We eat hormones, medicate with hormones, and since hormone excretion gets into the water supply, we drink hormones. Hormones are convenient, especially to control fertility and combat old age, but at some point the societal side effects become too great.
          2 wheeled menace
          • 1 Year Ago
          @mylexicon
          Almost nobody 'recreates' in the great salt lake. Just tourists who are curious. Basically the funky water that comes off the mountains gets filtered into it, and that lake evaporates during the summer, then it is filled again in the spring/winter. There are stricter pollution controls, but we do not adhere to them. The feds have been threatening the state for years. Many people live very close to the pollution sources - maybe there is a higher incidence of issues there. One thing we have that most states don't have is a copper mine ( largest open pit mine in the USA? ), and a medical waste incineration facility that incinerates waste for every state west of the rockies. We have tons of refineries right next to residential areas. And lots of other things - all listed here: http://www.planethazard.com/phpolluters.aspx?mode=polluters&area=state&state=UT
          2 wheeled menace
          • 1 Year Ago
          @mylexicon
          The only inhabitant of the great salt lake is sea monkeys - those crazy extremophile creatures that survive -10f to 110f temperatures and ultra hostile salinity levels. Nobody's drinking out of that water. Our big polluters here operate on the honor system to report their emissions, if you can believe it. They're also typically located in the middle of residential areas - but people built their houses right next to the sources of pollution, not the other way around.. Not far from my house, a large housing complex was built right up against a refinery. Multiple people have had their houses destroyed by explosions at the refineries..... those houses just get rebuilt and people go back to living in them. We are also in a valley with not much of an exit or inlet, so all the smog kinda spreads out and gets trapped, especially in winter, where we can exceed federal smog limits by about 5x. I'm still trying to figure out what i'm doing here, lol.
      jjaycedar
      • 1 Year Ago
      The old dirty fuel gave off far heavier particulate that did not stay airborn, it was dirty, but less poluting, the new cleaner fuel particulates are two small to be filtered, unless you are wearing a re-breather resperator. They stay airborn for a long time, it was known that this was going to happen and decided that we would do it anyway, the feds got behind it instead of LNG, which emits water vapor as an exaust. This all started in the eighties under the guidance of Reagan's administration, taking care of their friend's in the fossil fuel industry,
      lisa
      • 1 Year Ago
      If this the case, then we ALL should have Autism!!! What's next? It's gonna be from the methane gas of cows farting??? Maybe the vibration from all these idiots with speakers so big in their cars that my house windows vibrate almost to explosions!!! Get a grip!!!
        skierpage
        • 1 Year Ago
        @lisa
        No you idiot, they have found a statistically valid correlation from a large study. It's not as simple as A causes B. There are probably many factors leading to the increase in autism diagnoses, if this study holds up (other researchers will compare with other longitudinal studies) then it will be a useful clue in combating the disease.
      • 1 Year Ago
      Gee, wonder why they don't point out the fact that the allegedly wonderful vaccinations dosed out to babies and children, (instituted by law since around the 70's(?) when diseases they supposedly treated were on a steep decline) all for the most part have mercury as one of the main ingredients!!!! You want to stop the crazy diseases and disabilities??? Stop the crazy poisoning of American through food and drugs!
        • 1 Year Ago
        Jennifer, I disagree with you. Did you get vaccinated when young, all shots, etc.? Don't risk a childs life or health due to your fears.
        Katina
        • 1 Year Ago
        Thank you!!! I wonder why they won't out Monsanto they're the one who put all the poisons in food and drugs.
        ilenedan2
        • 1 Year Ago
        In countries where they removed all mercury from vaccines due ot these fears, the autism rates continued to climb at the same rate as they do for other countries, so that is not causing autism. Mercury is not very dangerous in liquid form, actually. I think food additives and lack of physical activity (less oxygenation to the brain) are more closely linked. Also, mercury is most dangerous in airborne form, and if I worry about anything, it is the use of the new CFL lightbulbs in kid's rooms where they may break due to kids playing ball or horsing around in their rooms and airborne particulate falls down onto the carpet and then is stirred up over and over. In fact, they recommend you cut out the portion of carpet and throw it away. How many people actually do that, do you think? Even as we try to improve air quality, so-called environmentalists create more hazards instead of going after Monsanto and the use of antibiotics in animals and feed.
        • 1 Year Ago
        Jennifer, I totally disagree with you. Were you vaccinated and did you have all necessary injections? Don't put a child at risk. Yes, I know someone who blames these shots for childs disability but, out of one child who seems to have bad reaction to thousands or millions who do not, it is worth the risk. Yes, research these products but find a great pediatrician and trust his/her advice.
        skierpage
        • 1 Year Ago
        You f***ing anti-vaccination morons make me sick. The lawyer who dummied up the link is a crook, there is no relationship between mercury poisoning and thiomersal, and populations who have suffered mercury poisoning have not had high rates of autism. Meanwhile we have an actual correlation here. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thiomersal_controversy http://scienceblogs.com/whitecoatunderground/2009/02/07/dishonest/
      HAT1701D
      • 1 Year Ago
      Hmmm, a study that doesn't actually take into account blood samples to see what chemicals are ACTUALLY involved. So, they are shooting in the dark and just singling out diesel burning engines of all the things that contribute to children with autism. That's mighty scientific of them.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @HAT1701D
        Good point! Diesel engines have been here thru my lifetime but autism has not. Shoots that theory all to heck.
          ilenedan2
          • 1 Year Ago
          Autism was there all along, but the kids were sent to special schools and hidden in shame, along with all the other "defective" children, so most people were blind to it. They received very poor educations and were never taught how to interact witgh others, so the were never able ot hold down jobs or appear in society as they do now. I know. When I was a teenager in the late 70's, my best friends and I volunteered at one such public school and at a summer camp (though generally, such camps were rare.)
      ddokken69
      • 1 Year Ago
      I guess taking a dump is going to be the next cause of some disease?? Come on!!! Where they HELL do they come up with this crap??
        skierpage
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ddokken69
        The answers to your stupid question are in the report.
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