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Smoking moms linked to autism


Smoking moms are more likely to have a child with high-functioning autism, like Asperger’s Disorder, according to a new study by researchers involved in the US autism surveillance program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It has long been known that autism is an umbrella term for a wide range of disorders that impair social and communication skills,” said Amy Kalkbrenner, assistant professor in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health, lead author. “What we are seeing is that some disorders on the autism spectrum, more than others, may be influenced by a factor such as whether a mother smokes during pregnancy.”

Smoking still common in the US

Smoking is still common in the US despite its well-known effects on families and children. Up to 13% of mothers who had children in the study smoked during pregnancy.

“The study doesn’t say for certain that smoking is a risk factor for autism,” Kalkbrenner said. “But it does say that if there is an association, it’s between smoking and certain types of autism.” The study implicated the disorders on the autism spectrum scale that are less severe and allow child to high-function.

Environmental studies sponsored by the CDC will continue. “The CDC recently released data indicating that one in 88 children has an autism spectrum disorder, making such environmental studies even more timely,” explained Kalkbrenner.

Autism is difficult to study because the broad spectrum of conditions and the interplay of genetics and environment are so complex. No single study can explain the causes. “The goal of this work is to help provide a piece of the puzzle. And in this we were successful,” concluded Kalkbrenner.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Environmental Health Perspectives

photo by John Nyboer

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