The causes of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are both genetic and environmental, but they are still not fully understood. The role of public health practitioners is to better identify both types of factors, as well as how genetics and environment interact, and to pinpoint modifiable risk factors to develop high-impact public health interventions, according to the article “The Changing Epidemiology of Autism Spectrum Disorders” in the 2017 Annual Review of Public Health.
It has been established that autism is highly heritable. Recent research has also shown that a cumulation of genetic variations could suggest a higher likelihood of ASD. Known environmental risk factors include parental age, but newer studies seem to indicate that the way pregnancies are spaced out could also increase the risk of ASD: short interpregnancy intervals, of less than 12 months, could deplete maternal resources and raise her level of stress, scientists have found. Other risk factors include air pollution, such as metals and chlorinated solvents, diesel particulate matters, and gases like nitrogen dioxide. The authors call for further investigation of the link between air pollution and autism.
Read more in the article “The Changing Epidemiology of Autism Spectrum Disorders” in the 2017 Annual Review of Public Health.
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