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Study Suggests Counties With More Rainfall Have Higher Autism Rates

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Monday, November 03, 2008 10:38 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA and Precription Drugs, Protecting Your Family, Autism, Vitamin D, Precipitation, Toxins, Chelation


IMAGE SOURCE:© Wikimedia Commons/ Autism awareness/ author: Ioannes.Baptista

A study of data from three states suggests that counties with higher levels of precipitation also have higher autism rates, further adding to the mystery surrounding the causes of autism.

Autism is a brain disorder that affects a person's ability to communicate, form relationships, and respond to the environment. Individuals can have mild, moderate or severe autism.

Some people with autism are highly functional while others are mentally retarded, mute, or have severe problems with language. It is generally accepted that autism is caused by abnormalities in brain structures or functions.

An estimated one out of every 150 U.S. children has autism, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a study published in this month’s Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, researchers found that in areas of California, Oregon and Washington that experienced high levels of rainfall during 1987-2001, autism rates among school-aged children increased when compared to 2005. Those kids diagnosed with the disorder would have been under three during the periods of high rainfall, the time when autism is commonly diagnosed.

Researchers speculate that high levels of rainfall could mean children are spending more time indoors, exposed to household chemicals, or watching increased amounts of television. Both, which are theorized factors in the development of autism.

Children could also be spending less time in the sunshine, preventing their bodies' production of Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, all of which may trigger autism in genetically prone children, suggests Waldman.

"Take a look at current autism literature, it is much more open to an environmental trigger now than before," says lead author Michael Waldman, a Cornell University economist who says his son was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder at age 3 but has since recovered and is now a normal third-grader.

Waldman and Dr. Noel S. Weiss of the University of Washington, who wrote an editorial about the study in the Archives, caution that the study findings are preliminary and stress they open the door to a world of possible explanations for autism besides precipitation.

Lee Grossman, president of the Autism Society of America, is skeptical of study findings. The findings do not seem plausible,” says Grossman, who was given a summary of Waldman’s research. “They don’t connect with any of the demographics that we follow.”

Our organization has 170 chapters and “what’s fascinating is the similarity… in terms of the prevalence and incidence of autism,” says Grossman.

While it makes sense that environmental factors play a role, what exactly they are, is yet to be identified. “I’m surprised the Archives have chosen to publish such studies,” he said. #

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