Traffic-Related Air Pollution, Particulate Matter, and Autism

Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA.
JAMA Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 12.01). 02/2013; 70(1):71-7. DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.266
Source: PubMed


Autism is a heterogeneous disorder with genetic and environmental factors likely contributing to its origins. Examination of hazardous pollutants has suggested the importance of air toxics in the etiology of autism, yet little research has examined its association with local levels of air pollution using residence-specific exposure assignments.
To examine the relationship between traffic-related air pollution, air quality, and autism.
This population-based case-control study includes data obtained from children with autism and control children with typical development who were enrolled in the Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment study in California. The mother's address from the birth certificate and addresses reported from a residential history questionnaire were used to estimate exposure for each trimester of pregnancy and first year of life. Traffic-related air pollution was assigned to each location using a line-source air-quality dispersion model. Regional air pollutant measures were based on the Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality System data. Logistic regression models compared estimated and measured pollutant levels for children with autism and for control children with typical development.
Case-control study from California.
A total of 279 children with autism and a total of 245 control children with typical development.
Crude and multivariable adjusted odds ratios (AORs) for autism.
Children with autism were more likely to live at residences that had the highest quartile of exposure to traffic-related air pollution, during gestation (AOR, 1.98 [95% CI, 1.20-3.31]) and during the first year of life (AOR, 3.10 [95% CI, 1.76-5.57]), compared with control children. Regional exposure measures of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter less than 2.5 and 10 μm in diameter (PM2.5 and PM10) were also associated with autism during gestation (exposure to nitrogen dioxide: AOR, 1.81 [95% CI, 1.37-3.09]; exposure to PM2.5: AOR, 2.08 [95% CI, 1.93-2.25]; exposure to PM10: AOR, 2.17 [95% CI, 1.49-3.16) and during the first year of life (exposure to nitrogen dioxide: AOR, 2.06 [95% CI, 1.37-3.09]; exposure to PM2.5: AOR, 2.12 [95% CI, 1.45-3.10]; exposure to PM10: AOR, 2.14 [95% CI, 1.46-3.12]). All regional pollutant estimates were scaled to twice the standard deviation of the distribution for all pregnancy estimates.
Exposure to traffic-related air pollution, nitrogen dioxide, PM2.5, and PM10 during pregnancy and during the first year of life was associated with autism. Further epidemiological and toxicological examinations of likely biological pathways will help determine whether these associations are causal.

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    • "A study in California found that children with autism were much more likely to have lived near sources of traffic pollution during gestation and the first year of their lives than children without autism (Volk et al., 2013). The same was true of cancer for children who lived near sources of traffic pollution at the time of their birth (Heck et al., 2013 and Ghosh et al., 2013). "
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    • "Outdoor air pollution kills approximately 8 million people across the world every year (WHO, 2014), with a global cost of 1.7 trillion dollars (OECD, 2014). Exposure to traffic-related air pollution can have infant respiratory health effects (Saravia et al., 2013), and has even been associated with autism (Volk et al., 2013). In Australia it is estimated that urban air pollution causes over 1400 deaths per annum in Sydney alone (Department of Health (2009)), with national health costs estimated to be as high as 1 per cent of gross domestic product (Brindle et al., 1999) or $AUD 12 billion pa, from lost productivity and medical expenses (Environment Australia, 2003). "
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    • "Near traffic exposures to air pollution have been documented to cause an array of health effects (Brugge, Durant, and Rioux 2007; Brown et al. 2012; Cakmak et al. 2012; Gauderman et al. 2007; Health Effects Institute 2010; Janssen et al. 2011; von Klot et al. 2011; Laumbach and Kipen 2012; McConnell et al. 2006, 2010; Meng et al. 2007; Lindgren et al. 2009; Rosenbloom et al. 2012; Ryan et al. 2009; Sucharew et al. 2010; Volk et al. 2013; Von Behren et al. 2008; Weng et al. 2008; Wilhelm et al. 2011, 2012; Wilhelm and Ritz 2003; Wu et al. 2009; Yorifuji et al. 2011). Respiratory illness, asthma, cardiovascular disease, increased mortality, and adverse birth outcomes are only some of the health effects associated with living and working near high-traffic areas (Baccarelli et al. 2009; Health Effects Institute 2010; Ritz et al. 2007; Salam, Islam, and Gilliland 2008). "
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