Living Close to a Freeway May Increase Autism Risk
Could where you live could increase your child's chances of developing autism? New research suggests babies born to mothers who live close to freeways have double the risk of becoming autistic compared to other kids, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Researchers examined nearly 600 children ages 2 to 5—roughly half of whom had autism— in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento. Those whose homes were within 1,000 feet of a freeway at birth appeared to be twice as likely to have autism, though the association didn't extend to major roads. Why freeways and not other highly-trafficked thoroughfares? Perhaps it's because of the type and quantity of the chemicals dispersed, the researchers speculated; in Los Angeles, for example, more than 300,000 cars cross some freeways daily, spewing pollutants. Past studies have linked autism to air pollutants, but the latest findings are the first to connect vehicular pollutants to the disorder. "This study isn't saying exposure to air pollution or exposure to traffic causes autism," lead researcher Heather Volk of the Saban Research Institute at Children's Hospital Los Angeles told The Los Angeles Times. "But it could be one of the factors that are contributing to its increase." Reported cases of autism jumped by 57 percent between 2002 and 2006, and about 1 in 110 children now has the disorder.
- Grandparents Can Join the Hunt for Causes of Autism
- New National Children's Study Seeks Environmental Causes of Autism, Asthma, ADHD
Want to Get in Shape? Take the Obama Challenge
Remember when you were a schoolkid running a mile and groaning through push-ups to meet the president's physical fitness challenge? Now you can sign up for the Obama version of the program, along with your own kids, U.S. News reports. The latest challenge, part of first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative to end childhood obesity, aims to get 1 million children and their parents on their feet and moving daily. Stick it out for two months or so and you earn an official Presidential Active Lifestyle Award.
The PALA challenge requires adults to exercise for 30 minutes a day—kids, for an hour—five days a week for six out of eight weeks. Or you can wear a pedometer and count your daily steps (adult target: 8,500; kids' target: 11,000 for girls and 13,000 for boys). Sign up for free at Fitness.gov, where you can also log your activities. Online fitness tests can help you assess your endurance, muscle strength, and flexibility, and measure the progress you're making with your workouts. [Read more: Want to Get in Shape? Take the Obama Challenge.]
- 10 Easy-Grow Veggies for Your Kids' Obama White House Garden
- Is Child Obesity an Infectious Disease?
TV Watching Is Bad for Babies' Brains
Babies who watch TV are more likely to have delayed cognitive development and language at 14 months, especially if they're watching programs intended for adults and older children. We probably knew that 24 and Grey's Anatomy don't really qualify as educational content, but it's surprising that TV-watching made a difference at such a tender age, writes U.S. News contributor Nancy Shute.
Babies who watched 60 minutes of TV daily had developmental scores one-third lower at 14 months than babies who weren't watching that much TV. Though their developmental scores were still in the normal range, the discrepancy may be due to the fact that when kids and parents are watching TV, they're missing out on talking, playing, and interactions that are essential to learning and development.
This new study, which appeared in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, followed 259 lower-income families in New York, most of whom spoke Spanish as their primary language at home. Other studies examining higher-income families have also come to the same conclusion: TV watching not only isn't educational, but it seems to stunt babies' development. [Read more: TV Watching Is Bad for Babies' Brains.]
Popular Health Articles from USNews.com
- A School Nutrition Experiment: Junk Food Carrots
- 7 Things to Know if You've Received a Diabetes Diagnosis
- How to Choose a Health Plan: 12 Helpful Tips
- Too Noisy at Work? Watch Out for Heart Risks
- Video: How to Manage Diabetes