Neurodevelopmental regression (NDR) is an enigmatic event associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during which a child loses previously acquired skills and develops ASD symptoms. In some, a trigger which precedes the NDR event, such as a fever, can be identified, but in many cases no trigger is obvious. We hypothesize that air pollution (PM2.5) may trigger NDR, especially in those children without an identified trigger. Average daily PM2.5, ozone, precipitation and maximum temperature (Tmax) were derived from Environmental Protection Agency models and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration monitors based on zip-code information from 83 ASD participants during the six-weeks following the onset month of an NDR event and a reference period defined as one year before and one year after the event. Seasonally adjusted logistic regression (LR) and linear mixed models (LMM) compared cases (with a history of NDR) and matched controls (without a history of NDR). LR models found that the risk of NDR was related to higher PM2.5 during 3 to 6 weeks of the NDR event period, particularly in those without a trigger. Overall, both models converged on NDR being related to a higher PM2.5 and lower Tmax both during the NDR event period as well as the reference period, particularly in those without a known trigger. This temporal pattern suggests that environmental triggers, particularly PM2.5, could be related to NDR, especially in those without an identifiable trigger. Further studies to determine the underlying biological mechanism of this observation could help better understand NDR and provide opportunities to prevent NDR.
- air pollution
- autism spectrum disorder
- neurodevelopmental regression
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Medicine (miscellaneous)