Publication Detail

Prenatal Exposure to Tailpipe and Non-tailpipe Tracers of Particulate Matter Pollution and Autism Spectrum Disorders


Journal Article

Suggested Citation:
Rahman, Mostafijur, Sarah Carter, Jane Lin, Ting Chow, Xin Yu, Mayra Martinez, Pat Levitt, Zhanghua Chen, Jiu-Chiuan Chen, Daniel Rud, Juan Lewinger, Sandrah Eckel, Joel Schwartz, Frederick Lurmann, Michael J. Kleeman, Rob McConnell, Anny Xiang (2023) Prenatal Exposure to Tailpipe and Non-tailpipe Tracers of Particulate Matter Pollution and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Environment International 171

Traffic-related air pollution exposure is associated with increased risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is unknown whether carbonaceous material from vehicular tailpipe emissions or redox-active non-tailpipe metals, eg. from tire and brake wear, are responsible. We assessed ASD associations with fine particulate matter (PM2.5) tracers of tailpipe (elemental carbon [EC] and organic carbon [OC]) and non-tailpipe (copper [Cu]; iron [Fe] and manganese [Mn]) sources during pregnancy in a large cohort.
This retrospective cohort study included 318,750 children born in Kaiser Permanente Southern California (KPSC) hospitals during 2001–2014, followed until age 5. ASD cases were identified by ICD codes. Monthly estimates of PM2.5 and PM2.5 constituents EC, OC, Cu, Fe, and Mn with 4 km spatial resolution were obtained from a source-oriented chemical transport model. These exposures and NO2 were assigned to each maternal address during pregnancy, and associations with ASD were assessed using Cox regression models adjusted for covariates. PM constituent effect estimates were adjusted for PM2.5 and NO2 to assess independent effects. To distinguish ASD risk associated with non-tailpipe from tailpipe sources, the associations with Cu, Fe, and Mn were adjusted for EC and OC, and vice versa.
There were 4559 children diagnosed with ASD. In single-pollutant models, increased ASD risk was associated with gestational exposures to tracers of both tailpipe and non-tailpipe emissions. The ASD hazard ratios (HRs) per inter-quartile increment of exposure) for EC, OC, Cu, Fe, and Mn were 1.11 (95% CI: 1.06–1.16), 1.09 (95% CI: 1.04–1.15), 1.09 (95% CI: 1.04–1.13), 1.14 (95% CI: 1.09–1.20), and 1.17 (95% CI: 1.12–1.22), respectively. Estimated effects of Cu, Fe, and Mn (reflecting non-tailpipe sources) were largely unchanged in two-pollutant models adjusting for PM2.5, NO2, EC or OC. In contrast, ASD associations with EC and OC were markedly attenuated by adjustment for non-tailpipe sources.
Results suggest that non-tailpipe emissions may contribute to ASD. Implications are that reducing tailpipe emissions, especially from vehicles with internal combustion engines, may not eliminate ASD associations with traffic-related air pollution.

Key words: Autism, PM2.5 constituents, Traffic air pollution, Tailpipe, Non-tailpipe