Skip Navigation
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

The .gov means it’s official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.


The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Your Environment. Your Health.

Publication Detail

Title: Developmental Neurotoxicity of Traffic-Related Air Pollution: Focus on Autism.

Authors: Costa, Lucio G; Chang, Yu-Chi; Cole, Toby B

Published In Curr Environ Health Rep, (2017 06)

Abstract: Epidemiological and animal studies suggest that air pollution may negatively affect the central nervous system (CNS) and contribute to CNS diseases. Traffic-related air pollution is a major contributor to global air pollution, and diesel exhaust (DE) is its most important component.Several studies suggest that young individuals may be particularly susceptible to air pollution-induced neurotoxicity and that perinatal exposure may cause or contribute to developmental disabilities and behavioral abnormalities. In particular, a number of recent studies have found associations between exposures to traffic-related air pollution and autism spectrum disorders (ASD), which are characterized by impairment in socialization and in communication and by the presence of repetitive and unusual behaviors. The cause(s) of ASD are unknown, and while it may have a hereditary component, environmental factors are increasingly suspected as playing a pivotal role in its etiology, particularly in genetically susceptible individuals. Autistic children present higher levels of neuroinflammation and systemic inflammation, which are also hallmarks of exposure to traffic-related air pollution. Gene-environment interactions may play a relevant role in determining individual susceptibility to air pollution developmental neurotoxicity. Given the worldwide presence of elevated air pollution, studies on its effects and mechanisms on the developing brain, genetic susceptibility, role in neurodevelopmental disorders, and possible therapeutic interventions are certainly warranted.

PubMed ID: 28417440 Exiting the NIEHS site

MeSH Terms: Air Pollutants/analysis; Air Pollutants/toxicity; Air Pollution/adverse effects; Air Pollution/analysis*; Autism Spectrum Disorder/etiology*; Autism Spectrum Disorder/genetics; Central Nervous System; Environmental Exposure/adverse effects; Gene-Environment Interaction; Humans; Inflammation; Neurotoxicity Syndromes*; Risk Factors; Vehicle Emissions/toxicity*

to Top