Australian researcher warns parents not to panic over autism study | Connect Asia

Australian researcher warns parents not to panic over autism study

Australian researcher warns parents not to panic over autism study

Updated 27 November 2012, 15:02 AEST

One of Australia's leading autism researchers says a US study linking pollution to autism raises more questions than answers.

Correspondent: Tom Nightingale

Speaker: Professor Andrew Whitehouse, Telethon Institute of Child Health Research

ANDREW WHITEHOUSE: It's a very interesting finding, there is no doubt about that. We've known for many years that there is likely to be at least a handful of environmental causes that may contribute to autism.

What this study actually does, it hints at the fact that we may need to direct more research into transport-related air pollution. However it is just a hint. What we now need to do is actually invest in that research to prove the association.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: And what sort of theories do you think should be tested for that to be the case?

ANDREW WHITEHOUSE: Well, what we now need to do is we actually need to, we need to find for certain that it is the air pollution that may be contributing to autism.

We can't at the moment from this study determine whether it is lifestyle factors or nutritional factors that may go along with increased exposure to air pollution.

What we need to do now is really break it down and study air pollution on its own.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: Have you ever heard of something like this being mentioned before?

ANDREW WHITEHOUSE: There are many, many theories going around about what causes autism and I hear almost a new one every day. The notion of air pollution causing health difficulties, we have actually known about for many years. We know that there is significant lung problems that can be associated with air pollution.

It doesn't surprise me that there may be an association between air pollution and difficulties with brain development. This study speaks to that and what we now need to do is really invest in the research to find out whether this association is true.

TOM NIGHTINGALE: What would your message be to someone who heard a story and was a parent or is about to become a parent?

ANDREW WHITEHOUSE: My message to parents is don't panic. There are many things associated with a child developing autism. We know that. This is just another one that we actually need to look into more details.

This study did not find that air pollution causes autism. What they'd found is an association with autism.

We need to direct further research into finding out whether this is lifestyle factors or nutritional factors or whether it is air pollution - but without that further research, we just don't know.

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