Autism spectrum disorder prevalence and proximity to industrial facilities releasing arsenic, lead or mercury

Aisha S. Dickerson, Mohammad H. Rahbar, Inkyu Han, Amanda V. Bakian, Deborah A. Bilder, Rebecca A. Harrington, Sydney Pettygrove, Maureen Durkin, Russell S. Kirby, Martha Slay Wingate, Lin Hui Tian, Walter M. Zahorodny, Deborah A. Pearson, Lemuel A. Moyé, Jon Baio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Prenatal and perinatal exposures to air pollutants have been shown to adversely affect birth outcomes in offspring and may contribute to prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). For this ecologic study, we evaluated the association between ASD prevalence, at the census tract level, and proximity of tract centroids to the closest industrial facilities releasing arsenic, lead or mercury during the 1990s. We used 2000 to 2008 surveillance data from five sites of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) network and 2000 census data to estimate prevalence. Multi-level negative binomial regression models were used to test associations between ASD prevalence and proximity to industrial facilities in existence from 1991 to 1999 according to the US Environmental Protection Agency Toxics Release Inventory (USEPA-TRI). Data for 2489 census tracts showed that after adjustment for demographic and socio-economic area-based characteristics, ASD prevalence was higher in census tracts located in the closest 10th percentile compared of distance to those in the furthest 50th percentile (adjusted RR. =. 1.27, 95% CI: (1.00, 1.61), P=. 0.049). The findings observed in this study are suggestive of the association between urban residential proximity to industrial facilities emitting air pollutants and higher ASD prevalence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-251
Number of pages7
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Distance
  • Environment
  • Metals
  • Pollution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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