Early Life Air Pollution Exposure and Autism Spectrum Disorder: Findings from the Study to Explore Early Development
Objectives: We examined associations between early life exposure to PM2.5 and ozone in association with ASD across multiple U.S. regions.
Methods: Our study participants included 674 children with confirmed ASD and 855 population controls from the Study to Explore Early Development, a multi-site case-control study of children born from 2003 to 2006 in the United States. We used a satellite-based model to assign air pollutant exposure averages during several critical periods of neurodevelopment: three months before pregnancy; each trimester of pregnancy; the entire pregnancy; and the first year of life. Logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs), adjusting for study site, maternal age, maternal education, maternal race/ethnicity, maternal smoking, and month and year of birth.
Results: The air pollution-ASD associations appeared to vary by exposure time period. Ozone exposure during the third trimester was associated with ASD, with an OR of 1.22 (95% CI:1.05, 1.42) per 6.6 ppb increase in ozone. We additionally observed a positive association with PM2.5 exposure during the first year of life [OR = 1.26 (95% CI: 1.02, 1.57) per 1.6 µg/m3 increase in PM2.5].
Conclusions: Our study corroborates previous findings of a positive association between early life air pollution exposure and ASD, and identifies a potential critical window of exposure during the late prenatal and early postnatal periods.