The children of mothers who are exposed to pollution during late pregnancy face a higher risk of developing autism, according to a new study.


According to research carried out by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health, mothers exposed to fine particulate pollution (emitted from sources such as fires, vehicle exhausts and industrial smokestacks) are twice as likely to have a child with autism.


The new results, which were published this week in the Environmental Health Perspectives online journal, found that the link existed primarily during late in the pregnancy.


While autism is believed to have a genetic basis, previous scientific research has also identified a strong link between the disorder and certain types of pollution.



A study carried out in 2012 found that the risk of autism doubled in the children of mothers who, during the third trimester of their pregnancy, lived near a freeway, where the aforementioned particulates are found in plentiful amounts.


Speaking after the publication of the latest study results, Harvard epidemiologist Marc Weisskopf said that the link between autism and air pollution “is becoming quite strong” but will need further investigation.