The number of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has rapidly increased globally. Genetic and environmental factors both contribute to the development of ASD. Several studies showed linkage between prenatal, early postnatal air pollution exposure and the risk of developing ASD. We reviewed the available literature concerning the relationship between early-life exposure to air pollutants and ASD onset in childhood. We searched on Medline and Scopus for cohort or case-control studies published in English from 1977 to 2020. A total of 20 articles were selected for the review. We found a strong association between maternal exposure to particulate matter (PM) during pregnancy or in the first years of the children’s life and the risk of the ASD. This association was found to be stronger with PM2.5 and less evident with the other pollutants. Current evidence suggest that pregnancy is the period in which exposure to environmental pollutants seems to be most impactful concerning the onset of ASD in children. Air pollution should be considered among the emerging risk factors for ASD. Further epidemiological and toxicological studies should address molecular pathways involved in the development of ASD and determine specific cause–effect associations.
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