Air Pollution Linked to Greater Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorders

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Raanan Raz, PhD
Visiting Scientist
Harvard School of Public Health

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Raz: Air pollution contains various toxicants that have been found to be associated with neurotoxicity and adverse effects on the fetus in utero. Several studies have explored associations of air pollution with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). These studies suggest increased chances of having a child with autism spectrum disorders with higher exposures to diesel particulate matter (PM), criteria pollutants and some organic materials as well as closer proximity to a freeway.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Raz: This study, and other previous studies, suggest that pregnancy exposure to air pollution is strongly associated with autism spectrum disorders in the offspring. It is generally beneficial to reduce exposure to air pollution as much as possible, and it may be especially beneficial to do so during pregnancy.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Raz: Future research should address which specific air pollutants are associated with autism spectrum disorders, using larger sample size and other geographic locations. Studies may also aim to find specific critical exposure time periods during pregnancy.

Citation:

Autism Spectrum Disorder and Particulate Matter Air Pollution before, during, and after Pregnancy: A Nested Case–Control Analysis within the Nurses’ Health Study II Cohort
Raanan Raz, Andrea L. Roberts, Kristen Lyall, Jaime E. Hart, Allan C. Just,Francine Laden, and Marc G. Weisskopf

Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1408133