Discovered: Mothers living near freeways more likely to have autistic kids; siblings that get along turn out healthier; high fructose corn syrup linked to diabetes; strange ancient life in Antarctic ice.
Does air pollution lead to autism? A new study from University of Southern California researchers seems to make a strong case for linking air pollution with autism. Their evidence shows that autistic children are two to three times more likely to have been exposed to exhaust, smog, and other air pollutants early in life. "We’re not saying that air pollution causes autism," clarifies lead researcher Heather Volk. But, she says, "We’re saying it may be a risk factor for autism." Any new study making big claims about autism will of course have its skeptics, though. For instance, Forbes' Emily Willingham points out that air pollution has actually decreased significantly over the last 10 years, that there are many confounding variables at play here, and that increasing autism incidence may simply be a function of increasing study on autism. [Time]
Siblings that play nice together stay healthier longer. Brother tussling over backyard sporting events, sisters jockeying to be the favorite child—a little sibling rivalry can't hurt, right? Think again, say scientists from Penn State. They observed 174 families in rural and urban areas, finding that conflict between siblings corresponds to poor health later in life. "Negative sibling relationships are strongly linked to aggressive, anti-social and delinquent behaviors, including substance use," says Prof. Mark Feinberg. He and his colleagues devised a program that helps siblings get along better, and showed that if implemented when kids are still in elementary school, siblings tend to avoid negative behavior later in life. [Penn State]