Local Environment Not Cause of Autism 'Clusters'
California Autism Clusters Linked to Parent Education, Not Local Toxins
WebMD News Archive
On the other hand, "it is entirely possible that people with higher
education have some kind of exposure that increases autism risk,"
But that's unlikely, she suggests. There clearly is a genetic predisposition
to autism. But genes don't explain why some people get autism and others don't.
Many researchers feel there has to be some kind of environmental trigger --
perhaps something a woman encounters during pregnancy or that a child
encounters in infancy -- that triggers the disorder in susceptible
"Our study tells us probably the environmental causes of autism are not
going to be found in local contamination, at least in California,"
Hertz-Picciotto says. "Whatever the environmental contributors are, they are
probably more widespread and not linked to a hazardous local factor."
The study also suggests that there are a lot more kids with autism -- in
California, at least -- who are not getting the services they need. In Denmark,
where all kids are screened for autism, parental education doesn't raise autism risk. But it is
in the U.S. and the U.K., where access to screening is not universal.
"This calls for some thinking about what we can do to increase autism
awareness in the general population and bring services to these families, so
that parents with education and means are not the only ones able to address the
health of their children in the best possible way," Shih says.
Graduate student Karla C. Van Meter is first author of the Hertz-Picciotto
study, which appears in the January issue of Autism Research.