A study published in March 2015 showed that children whose mothers were exposed to the highest levels of Particulate Matter size 2.5 (PM 2.5) while pregnant were almost twice as likely to develop autism as compared to mothers exposed to the lowest amounts of PM 2.5. See this link.
Particulate matter in the air enters the bloodstream and breaks down important barriers between cells, leading to inflammation and autoimmunity. See this link. Autism is strongly correlated with autoimmunity. See this link . Fetal development is a sensitive time for the developing immune system.
Utah, where I live, is consistently in the highest quartile of PM 2.5 during the winter months because of a weather pattern we call “inversion”. During a winter inversion, air in the populated valleys does not circulate and particulate matter is trapped in living areas. See this link.Utah also has higher than average autism prevalence compared to other states. See this link .
If you live in Utah or other areas where inversions occur, you may wish to plan your conception in the springtime so that you’re not exposed to higher levels of PM 2.5 during pregnancy.