In Utero Exposure to Toxic Air Pollutants and Risk of Childhood Autism.
Genetic and environmental factors are believed to contribute to the development of autism, but relatively few studies have considered potential environmental risks. Here, we examine risks for autism in children related to in utero exposure to monitored ambient air toxics from urban emissions.
Among the cohort of children born in Los Angeles County, California, 1995-2006, those whose mothers resided during pregnancy in a 5-km buffer around air toxics monitoring stations were included (n = 148,722). To identify autism cases in this cohort, birth records were linked to records of children diagnosed with primary autistic disorder at the California Department of Developmental Services between 1998 and 2009 (n = 768). We calculated monthly average exposures during pregnancy for 24 air toxics selected based on suspected or known neurotoxicity or neurodevelopmental toxicity. Factor analysis helped us identify the correlational structure among air toxics, and we estimated odds ratios (ORs) for autism from logistic regression analyses.
Autism risks were increased per interquartile range increase in average concentrations during pregnancy of several correlated toxics mostly loading on 1 factor, including
1,3-butadiene (OR = 1.59 [95% confidence interval = 1.18-2.15]),
meta/para-xylene (1.51 [1.26-1.82]),
other aromatic solvents, lead (1.49 [1.23-1.81]),
perchloroethylene (1.40 [1.09-1.80]), and
formaldehyde (1.34 [1.17-1.52]),
adjusting for maternal age, race/ethnicity, nativity, education, insurance type, parity, child sex, and birth year.
Risks for autism in children may increase following in utero exposure to ambient air toxics from urban traffic and industry emissions, as measured by community-based air-monitoring stations.