A new study by Harvard University shows women who live in areas with polluted air are up to twice as likely to have an autistic child than those living in communities with cleaner air. The studies author says babies born in areas of the United States with high airborne levels of mercury, diesel exhaust, lead, manganese, nickel and methylene chloride are more likely to have autism than those in areas with lower pollution.
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."
He's hoping this new study serves as a wake up call about the dangers of Utah’s toxic air.
"There's no question that most of our children are having some sort of an adverse impact in their developmental process that can affect their lifelong health,”
At any given time some 40,000 Utah women are pregnant. In the nine months they’ll either have to deal with the state’s summer air quality or the inversion in the winter. This last winter Utah some of the worst air quality with 22 days in the red zone.
Dr. Moench said, "When pollution is breathed by anyone, it can actually have a chemical effect on the functioning of their genes, their chromosomes."
In developing human embryos that means the brain. In the first three months of gestation Dr. Moench says the brain is adding about 250,000 brain cells per minute.
“Building a brain is much like building a sky scraper,” explained Dr. Moench. “If you don't build the foundation correctly whatever you do 50 stories up isn't going to be appropriate, isn't going to have integrity; that sky scrapper won't function."
To read the entire study log on to: