MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Keith Fluegge BS
Institute of Health and Environmental Research (IHER) Cleveland
Graduate School, The Ohio State University, Columbus
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: The research letter discusses the possible link between rainfall precipitation and risk of autism. Earlier research suggested a link, although there remained quite a bit of skepticism surrounding the findings at the time.
The purpose of the study was to briefly highlight the role of environmental exposure to the agricultural and combustion pollutant, nitrous oxide (N2O), as a possible etiological factor in neurodevelopmental disorders. We have published a series of epidemiological investigations, reviews, and correspondences discussing this possibility. In my continued research on this topic, I learned that rainfall and extreme weather-related events, like hurricanes, drive N2O emissions, especially from nitrogen amended soils. Exposure to this particular air pollutant may, therefore, plausibly undergird the relationship between rainfall precipitation and risk of autism.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: It is my hope that substantive attention is paid to the possible direct human health effects from chronic exposure to trace amounts of N2O emissions in the environment. Most of the research on environmental N2O emissions concerns its role as a greenhouse gas. Moreover, since N2O is also widely and presumably safely used as a medical anesthetic, researchers may comfortably ignore the human health consequences from chronic exposure to trace levels in the environment, believing, perhaps erroneously, that there is no risk. This complacency is worrisome.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: As I have discussed extensively in my prior writings, I am obviously concerned about the drivers of N2O emissions in the environment. Rigorous quantification of N2O emissions from agricultural practices would be a reasonable next step in my mind but seems to be of low priority among researchers and policy-makers, even many decades after the use of anthropogenic nitrogen fertilizers began
MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.
Fluegge K. Revisiting the Link Between Precipitation and the Risk of AutismThe Role of Environmental Nitrous Oxide Exposure. JAMA Pediatr. Published online April 10, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.0050
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