Air Pollution Impacts Fetal Development and Increases Autism Risk

Sunday, February 14, 2016: 1:30 PM-4:30 PM
Marshall Ballroom East (Marriott Wardman Park)
Beate Ritz, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
The relatively short period during which the fetus develops in utero is crucial for organ development and interactions between genetic and environmental influences during this time can set the stage for dysfunction and diseases that occur in childhood and later in adulthood. Thus, it is important to understand the adverse influences of preventable environmental exposures during this phase. For two decades, epidemiologic studies have reported that prenatal exposures to ambient air pollution adversely affect pregnancy outcomes.  More recently, evidence emerged that children’s brains might also be affected by air pollution exposures that occur during pregnancy and in early life. Large population based studies of relatively rare but severe brain diseases such as autism studies have recently been made possible and been aided by the data available from dense air monitoring systems in urban areas and expanding computing capacities that allow for geographic information systems based air pollution modeling of land use and satellite derived data.  This talk will summarize results from a diverse set of studies ranging from animal data and human pathology specimen to insights from cohort studies that assessed children longitudinally for head growth in-utero or cognitive and behavioral outcomes during early childhood; and finally discuss results from the largest US case control studies focusing on autism that carefully considered multiple exposures. These studies point to traffic-derived pollutants as  major contributors to harming the developing brain.