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US study links autism to roadside pollution

Submitted by admin on Nov 29th 2012, 12:00am



Howard Winn

Researchers in California have found that exposure to roadside pollution during pregnancy is associated with autism. The study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found evidence that pollution may affect the developing brain among children whose mothers lived in areas where there was poor air quality, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.

“We’ve known for a long time that air pollution is bad for our lungs, and especially for children. We’re now beginning to understand how air pollution may affect the brain,” Heather Volk, the lead researcher and assistant professor from the Keck School of Medicine at University of Southern California, told the newspaper.

“Our study found that local estimates of traffic-related air pollution and regional measures of PM2.5, PM10, or nitrogen dioxide at residences were higher in children with autism,” researchers said.

Autism is rising globally, including Hong Kong. According to a government response to a question in the Legislative Council, in 2009, there were 2,500 children under the age of 15 with autism in Hong Kong.

Ricci Chang Lik-chee, a specialist psychiatrist, told Lai See that it was known that exposure to pollution affected health, but it was hard to say at this stage exactly what factors triggered autism in children.

Killer blow?

The big tobacco companies have suffered a thumping setback in a judgment handed down in the US by Federal Judge Gladys Kessler in the long-running court battle between the government and the big tobacco companies, which included Philip Morris and its parent, Altria Group, RJ Reynolds Tobacco, Lorillard Tobacco and British American Tobacco.

The court found that all the defendants had publicly denied the existence of adverse health effects from smoking despite “massive documentation” in their own files, and have known since 1964 that there was a medical consensus that smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer and other diseases.

It also found that they had “denied and distorted the truth as to the addictive nature of their products for several decades” adding “defendants have designed their cigarettes to precisely control nicotine delivery levels and provide doses of nicotine sufficient to create and sustain addiction”.

The firms were ordered to publish statements on their websites, as well as in ads in newspapers and on television and as inserts in cigarette packaging, acknowledging smoking’s consequences. Among other things, the companies must say: “Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans. Every day. More people die every year from smoking than from murder, AIDS, suicide, drugs, car crashes, and alcohol, combined.”

Other statements include “second-hand smoke kills over 3,000 Americans each year. Smoking causes heart disease, emphysema, acute myeloid leukaemia, and cancer of the mouth, oesophagus, larynx, lung, stomach, kidney, bladder ,and pancreas” and that “smoking also causes reduced fertility, low birthweight in newborns, and cancer of the cervix and uterus”.

The companies had argued that some elements of the forced statements violated their First Amendment rights, a claim the judge rejected. The firms were ordered to begin discussions on how to implement the ruling next month, though that timeline could be extended with additional appeals.

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Causes of Autism

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