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New study links mercury with autism rates
A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio reveals a double-digit increase in the rate of autism for every 1,000 pounds of mercury released in Texas counties.
The study compared 2001 mercury levels reported in Texas' 254 counties to the rate of autism and special education services in nearly 1,200 Texas school districts. The districts, which range from urban to rural, enrolled some 4 million Texas children.
"The main finding is that for every 1,000 pounds of environmentally released mercury, we saw a 17 percent increase in autism rates," says lead author Dr. Raymond F. Palmer, associate professor in the Health Science Center's department of family and community medicine.
Health Science Center officials maintain that large-scale mercury exposures such as accidental spills have long been implicated with developmental disabilities. But this most recent study, Palmer says, is one of the first to examine the relationship between potentially chronic, low-dose mercury exposure and a developmental disorder such as autism.
Mercury is the third-most frequently found toxic substance nationwide, after arsenic and lead. Coal-burning power plants, which supply energy to cities and generally are in close proximity to population centers, release more mercury than any other source in the United States. Texas is fourth among the states in reported mercury releases, after California, Oregon and West Virginia, say Health Science Center officials.
Authors of the study caution that it is an ecological investigation based on county level and school district data and does not lend itself to more individualized interpretations. They add that it is only a first step in identifying the need for further investigation.
Autism is a developmental disorder that varies in severity in individuals and is characterized by impaired ability to engage in normal social behavior and by behavior patterns such as repetitive motions and sounds. That figure, say Health Science Center officials, could be on the rise.
Co-authors of the study include Dr. Claudia S. Miller from the department of family and community medicine at the Health Science Center, Dr. Stephen Blanchard from the department of sociology at Our Lady of the Lake University and Dr. David Mandell from the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research.
Originally posted by RedBalloon
This isn't anything new. Mercury poisoning causes Autism-like symptoms, and those symptoms often go away with chelation when mercury and other heavy metals are removed from the blood.
Actual autism - defects or changes in the brain may be something different. This study wasn't too clear on that.