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Autism in genetically vulnerable people could be triggered by very low levels of chemicals found in the water supply, researchers have discovered.
Experts from the University of Idaho in the US were 'astonished' to find that just traces of common medication such as anti-depressants can bring on the disorder.
They made the discovery by observing the changes in the genetic pathways of fish swimming in water contaminated with psychoactive drugs
Lead scientist Dr Michael Thomas said: 'While others have envisioned a causal role for psychotropic drugs in idiopathic autism, we were astonished to find evidence that this might occur at very low dosages, such as those found in aquatic systems.'
(Reuters) - About one in 88 children in the United States has autism or a related disorder, the highest estimate to date and one that is sure to revive a national argument over how the condition is diagnosed and treated.
Among boys, the rate of autism spectrum disorders is one in 54, almost five times that of girls, in whom the rate is one in 252
The estimate released on Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention represents an overall increase of about 25 percent since the last analysis in 2006 and a near-doubling of the rate reported in 2002.
CDC: Antidepressant use skyrockets 400% in past 20 years
Use of antidepressant drugs has soared nearly 400% since 1988, making the medication the most frequently used by people ages 18-44, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.
Eleven percent of Americans ages 12 years and older took antidepressants during the 2005-08 study period, the authors write. They add that though the majority of antidepressants were taken to treat depression, the drugs also can be used for anxiety disorders and other conditions