Thursday, April 24, 2008

Study Finds Mercury Autism Link

The rancorous debates about a possible mercury autism link usually focus on vaccines and the mercury component of some vaccine preservatives. Mercury originating elsewhere in the environment is rarely mentioned as a possible causal factor for autism even though mercury is a powerful neurotoxin especiallydangerous for fetuses, babies and toddlers. A recent study by a team of San Antonio scientists may change those dynamics substantially as reported on The San Antonio scientists have found a statistically significant correlation between autism rates in Texas school districts and their proximity to power plants or other large industrial sources of mercury.

The team looked at mercury released from 39 coal-fired power plants and 56 industrial plants around the state and examined the autism rates from 1,040 school districts in Texas.

Researchers found that for every 1,000 pounds of mercury released into the environment, there was an overall 2.6 percent increase in autism rates in Texas school districts.

That rate jumped to 3.7 percent when looking at emissions from power plants alone. But it fell by 1 to 2 percent for every 10 miles from the source.

The study is published in the journal Health & Place.


Terri Lewis said...

You say, "Mercury originating elsewhere in the environment [not in vaccines] is rarely mentioned as a possible causal factor for autism. . ."

It's mentioned frequently at Age of Autism ( Three instances (more in the AOA archives, if you're interested):

"Olmsted on Autism: Hannah Poling and Rachel Carson," Dan Olmsted, 3/19/2008;

"Mercury, Thimerosal and the Natural History of Autism," Dan Olmsted, 1/11/2008;

"UN Wants Mercury Out. Except When It Wants It In," Dan Olmsted, 11/18/2007.

Mercury is, perhaps, the single, largest contributing factor in autism. It is without a doubt a huge, contributing factor.

It's neurotoxic, as you say, whether present in vaccines, in the air, in the water, in pesticides, in fish, in mercury dental fillings, or elsewhere.

We would welcome your comments at Age of Autism.

Terri Lewis

Anonymous said...

Texas--BLAH!! Yet another good reason not to live in that polluted state. Additionally, the districts are a bunch of deadbeats when it comes to offering ABA and the kids are pretty much getting nothing down there in terms of appropriate services.

Translating Project said...

Hello H. I just reviewed this article. What is interesting is that the results did not just suggest a simple correlation between mercury (amount and proximity) and autism. Instead this was modeled to control for other possible confounding variables such as SES, race, and urbanicity. Also, the study modeled rates in 2002, not increases of rates over time, which mostly (not entirely) negates the argument that the study did not account for possible explanations of the increase in rates over time. I have to say the data presented are compelling. Nestor.

Anonymous said...

All that they need to make that study complete is blood work to analyze the DNA subtypes. Should be interesting to see if the extra kids getting autism are evenly distributed or clustered on certain genetic profiles with poor mercury excretion or variations in mitochondiral function.

Terri Lewis said...

More about environmental mercury (mercury in the form of air pollution) at Age of Autism, today.

There's quite a bit of coverage of this issue for any readers who have further interest.

And that should probably be all of us.

Terri Lewis