Possible Link for Autism, Traffic-Related Air Pollution

Association identified with autism and pollution exposure in utero and during first year of life

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Autism may be linked to exposure to traffic-related air pollution during pregnancy and the first year of life, according to a study published online Nov. 26 in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Heather E. Volk, Ph.D., M.P.H., from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and colleagues conducted a case-control study involving 279 children with autism and 245 control children enrolled in the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment study in California. Traffic-related air pollution exposure was estimated for each trimester of pregnancy and the first year of life for each location identified from birth certificate data and reported residential history.

The researchers found that, compared with controls, children with autism had a significantly increased likelihood of living at residences that had the highest quartile of exposure to traffic-related air pollution, during gestation (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.98) and during the first year of life (aOR, 3.10). There was a significant association between regional exposure measures of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter less than 2.5 and 10 µm in diameter (PM2.5 and PM10) and autism during gestation (exposure to nitrogen dioxide: aOR, 1.81; exposure to PM2.5: aOR, 2.08; exposure to PM10: aOR, 2.17) and during the first year of life (aORs, 2.06, 2.12, and 2.14, respectively).

"Although additional research to replicate these findings is needed, the public health implications of these findings are large because air pollution exposure is common and may have lasting neurological effects," the authors write.

Two authors are employees of Sonoma Technology; one author has received support from an air quality violations settlement agreement.

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