Autism in Israel


Environmental Risk Factors for Autism in Israel

Principal Investigator: Marc Weisskopf, Ph.D., Sc.D.

While there is a growing indication that maternal exposure to air pollutants is associated with risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in her child, details of this association remain uncertain. In order to address these issues, a very large cohort with a wide range of exposures estimated with very fine spatiotemporal detail is needed. This study capitalizes on a unique international setting—Israel—where we have total population data on ASD from the Israeli National Insurance Institute (NII) and advanced models of exposure to PM (particulate matter) and NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) (markers of traffic-related pollution) developed by the Technion Center of Exposure Science and Environmental Health (TCEEH).

In Israel, there are higher levels and a wider range of exposure to pollutants than in the U.S. The exposure models provide high spatial resolution that we can get on a weekly basis, and we can compare more typical PM exposures with PM from dust storm events that produce a PM with very different characteristics. These aspects, coupled with the very large size of this study (>10000 ASD cases), will allow us to contrast different pollutants, explore specific exposure windows, and consider susceptible groups (e.g. male fetuses) to an extent not previously done.

The models for PM across Israel have been completed and the investigators continue to work on the data. A paper is in press.

Support from the Hoffman Pilot Grant Program enabled the team to generate additional funding, including an NIH R21 (Air Pollution and Autism in Israel: A Population-Wide Study) as well as matching funds from a private donor.


Raz R, Levine H, Pinto O, Broday DM, Yuval, Weisskopf MG. Traffic-Related Air Pollution and Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Population-Based Nested Case-Control Study in Israel. Am. J. Epidemiol. In press.

Rotem, RS, Chodick G, Davidovitch M, Hauser R, Coull BA,Weisskopf MG. Congenital Abnormalities of the Male Reproductive System and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Am. J. Epidemiol. In press. 


2016 International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) annual meeting, Baltimore, MD: Traffic Related Air Pollution and Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Population Based Nested Case-Control Study in Israel.

2017 University of California, Irvine, CA: Air Pollution and Autism (with related tangents into epidemiological methods)

2017 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI: Air Pollution and Autism: Causal or Confounded?

2017 Dartmouth University, Hanover, NH: Air Pollution and Autism: Causal or Confounded?

2017 Joint Meeting Neurotoxicity Society and International Neurotoxicity Association, Florianopolis, Brazil: Traffic Related Air Pollution and Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Population Based Nested Case-Control Study in Israel.”