Fine particulate matter is emitted annually in the billions of pounds by gas-powered leaf blowers and other small lawn and garden engines used in our neighborhoods, parks, schools and workplaces. A new study from researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health shows that pregnant women exposed to high levels of fine particulate matter, especially in late pregnancy, doubled the risk of having a child with autism; the greater the exposure , the higher the risk. The article is published in the December 18, 2014 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.
According to lead author, Marc Weisskopf, associate professor of environmental and occupational epidemiology, “the evidence base for a role for maternal exposure to air pollution increasing the risk of autism spectrum disorders is becoming quite strong. This not only gives us important insight as we continue to pursue the origins of autism spectrum disorders, but as a modifiable exposure, opens the door to thinking about possible preventative measures.”
Despite extensive evidence linking particulate matter to diseases such as autism, cancer, heart disease, stroke respiratory disorders, the use of gas leaf blowers and other equipment continues to rise. Commercial crews wielding multiple gas-powered engines are prevalent in our suburbs and urban communities are emitting concentrated, ground level clouds of fine particulates that can stay in the air for extended periods. Our public health officials (local, state, and national) need to focus on this important health issue. In the meantime, property owners can demand that contractors use manual tools and electric equipment whenever possible. This would also benefit the health of workers.