Mercury Pollution Linked to Autism Risk

Posted on Apr 24, 2008 in Autism, Heavy Metals

Thu, Apr 24, 2008 (HealthDay) — The first study to show a statistical relationship between autism and proximity to industrial sites that release mercury has been published by researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Their analysis of data from 1,040 Texas school districts and data from 39 coal-fired power plants and 56 industrial facilities in the state showed that autism rates decreased by one percent to two percent for each 10 miles of distance from a mercury pollution source.

Among the other findings:

• For every 1,000 pounds of mercury released by all industrial sources in Texas in 1998, there was a corresponding 2.6 percent increase in autism rates in Texas school districts in 2002.
• For every 1,000 pounds of mercury released by Texas power plants in 1998, there was a corresponding 3.7 percent increase in autism rates in Texas school districts in 2002.

The research appears in the journal Health & Place.

“This study was not designed to understand which individuals in the population are at risk due to mercury exposure. However, it does suggest generally that there is greater autism risk closer to the polluting source,” lead author Raymond Palmer, associate professor of family and community medicine, said in a prepared statement.

What you can do: If you suspect your child might have a developmental delay or signs of autism, bring it up with your child’s doctor.

• Visit the Autism Information Center at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health website.
• Our development areas will give you a good idea of what to expect when from your 2- to 4-year-old or 5- to 8-year-old. Keep in mind that some children just need a little extra time to meet certain milestones — yours may be one of them.
• Talk to other parents on our Children with autism spectrum disorder bulletin board.