Air pollution may exacerbate autism symptoms

Short-term exposure to air pollution may be linked to the risk of hospitalisation for symptoms related to autism, researchers propose today.

The work was carried out by Dr Yun-Chul Hong of Seoul National University Hospital, Republic of Korea, and colleagues.

They examined the risk factors for autism spectrum disorder symptom aggravation, which may lead to hospital admissions due to hyperactivity, aggression, or injuries to oneself.

In *BMJ Open* today, they explain that this is important for quality of life of patients and their family, and economic costs due to treatment and care.

Short term exposure to air pollution over days to weeks is known to induce systemic inflammation and neuroinflammation, possibly due to particulate air pollutants entering the lungs and nasal lining. This may aggravate autism symptoms.

The researchers looked at the link between short-term exposure to air pollution and hospital admissions for autism as a proxy for symptom aggravation.

They used hospital figures on Korean children aged five to 14 years and daily concentrations of fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ozone.

Each of these exposures increased the risks of hospital admissions for autism, the team report, with the risk being higher for boys than girls.

The researchers estimate that exposure to the pollutants was linked to a 29% higher risk of hospital admission for autism, with nitrogen dioxide exerting the strongest effects.

They conclude: "These results emphasise that reduction of air pollution exposure should be considered for autism spectrum disorder symptom management, with important implications for the quality of life and economic costs."

Kim, K-N. et al. Effects of short-term exposure to air pollution on hospital admissions for autism spectrum disorder in Korean school-aged children: a nationwide time-series study. *BMJ Open* 21 September 2022 doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-058286


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