Bronx Children’s Lives At Risk: New Study Reinforces Link Between Air Pollution & Autism

Many people often ask why we fight against the proposed move of FreshDirect move to the South Bronx — an area that is already plagued by asthma where 1 in 4 children have the life-threatening ailment.  The truck intensive and polluting industry that is FreshDirect will only exacerbate such ailments in our community, something which many studies have clearly shown is a health problem.

Now, just after last month’s announcement about Columbia University’s study linking pollution to childhood ADHD, Harvard has released a study which indicates that pregnant women are at almost TWICE the risk of giving birth to a child with autism due to smog spewed by vehicles, or smoke stacks: something which the South Bronx has been a dumping ground for.

This is what NBC said of the study:

“Pregnant women may nearly double their risk of giving birth to a child with autism by inhaling smog spewed by vehicles or smoke stacks, according to a new Harvard study that could help unlock the deepest autism mysteries.

The research, released Thursday, fortifies previous scientific findings that linked air pollution to autism. And it offers fresh insights by showing women in their third trimesters seem most vulnerable if they breathe in elevated levels of tiny airborne particles emitted by power plants, fires and automobiles.

“We found an association that was specific to pregnancy and especially to the third trimester, identifying a window, which might shed a light on processes that are happening that can lead to autism,” said Marc Weisskopf, the report’s senior author and associate professor of environmental and occupational epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

The higher the exposure rate, the greater the risk, he found.”

They also go one to highlight a Bronx family:

“The Harvard team focused on pregnant women who took part in the Nurses’ Health Study II, a group of more than 116,000 female U.S. nurses who agreed to be tracked starting in 1989. Researchers amassed data on where participants lived while pregnant and crosschecked air-pollution readings for those areas as recorded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Among those mothers, Weisskopf and his colleagues identified 245 children who were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during the time period examined.

For Bronx mom Carmen Sanchez, 33, the study only reinforced her suspicion that air pollution played a role in the “mild” autism diagnosis of her son, Jacob, when he was 5.

Now 10, Jacob attends a New York City public school and, according to his mother, struggles to transition from one activity to another and finds it difficult to understand facial cues. He cares about how people view him and wants to be liked.

Image: Carmen Sanchez, 33, with (left to right) her son, Jacob, 10, her husband, Adonis, 39,  and son, Sean, 7

During her pregnancy with Jacob, Sanchez lived in the South Bronx. A building next door to her home emitted large amounts of soot and smoke before it was ultimately demolished.

“We also lived a block away from the Cross Bronx (Expressway), which is one of the largest freeways in the Bronx. We could look right out our window and see the cars. And one of the biggest things that happened in my third trimester was a fire in the apartment adjacent to ours. A lot of that soot was coming into our apartment while they fixed that apartment.

 “I always felt like there was something environmental (tied to the diagnosis), whether it be the food or the actual air quality. I’ve always felt like that,” Sanchez. “In some ways, this study gives me peace of mind that we’re closer to solving the problem that is autism.

“But in other ways, it gets even more scary. You can avoid eating certain things. But air pollution is such a large problem. How do you avoid living in a certain area?”

While the Harvard findings are not the first to couple air pollution with autism, the paper is “among the strongest studies to date,” said Michael Rosanoff, director for public health research for the advocacy group Autism Speaks.

via Autism and Air Pollution: New Study Bolsters Suspected Link – NBC

What other ailments do we have to suffer because of companies like FreshDirect that want to continue to pollute our streets? They have already broken their promises of converting to electric fleet by purchasing 10 additional diesel trucks to add to the pollution of our roadways.

The CDC has said there is a deep connection between air pollution, particularly highway and vehicular pollution to childhood leukemia.  What else are we to endure?

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.