Send to

Choose Destination
Environ Health Perspect. 2015 Mar;123(3):264-70. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1408133. Epub 2014 Dec 18.

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.

Author information

Department of Environmental Health, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder with increasing prevalence worldwide, yet has unclear etiology.


We explored the association between maternal exposure to particulate matter (PM) air pollution and odds of ASD in her child.


We conducted a nested case-control study of participants in the Nurses' Health Study II (NHS II), a prospective cohort of 116,430 U.S. female nurses recruited in 1989, followed by biennial mailed questionnaires. Subjects were NHS II participants' children born 1990-2002 with ASD (n = 245), and children without ASD (n = 1,522) randomly selected using frequency matching for birth years. Diagnosis of ASD was based on maternal report, which was validated against the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised in a subset. Monthly averages of PM with diameters ≤ 2.5 μm (PM2.5) and 2.5-10 μm (PM10-2.5) were predicted from a spatiotemporal model for the continental United States and linked to residential addresses.


PM2.5 exposure during pregnancy was associated with increased odds of ASD, with an adjusted odds ratio (OR) for ASD per interquartile range (IQR) higher PM2.5 (4.42 μg/m3) of 1.57 (95% CI: 1.22, 2.03) among women with the same address before and after pregnancy (160 cases, 986 controls). Associations with PM2.5 exposure 9 months before or after the pregnancy were weaker in independent models and null when all three time periods were included, whereas the association with the 9 months of pregnancy remained (OR = 1.63; 95% CI: 1.08, 2.47). The association between ASD and PM2.5 was stronger for exposure during the third trimester (OR = 1.42 per IQR increase in PM2.5; 95% CI: 1.09, 1.86) than during the first two trimesters (ORs = 1.06 and 1.00) when mutually adjusted. There was little association between PM10-2.5 and ASD.


Higher maternal exposure to PM2.5 during pregnancy, particularly the third trimester, was associated with greater odds of a child having ASD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center