Texas Study Relates Autism to Environmental Mercury
The association between environmentally released mercury, special education and autism rates in Texas was investigated using data from the Texas Education Department and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
A Poisson regression analysis adjusted for school district population size, economic and demographic factors was used. There was a significant increase in the rates of special education students and autism rates associated with increases in environmentally released mercury. On average, for each 1,000 lb of environmentally released mercury, there was a 43% increase in the rate of special education services and a 61% increase in the rate of autism. The association between environmentally released mercury and special education rates were fully mediated by increased autism rates.
This ecological study suggests the need for further research regarding the association between environmentally released mercury and developmental disorders such as autism. These results have implications for policy planning and cost analysis.
The original study
Raymond F. Palmer, Steven Blanchard, Zachary Stein, David Mandell, Claudia Miller, Environmental mercury release, special education rates, and autism disorder: an ecological study of Texas, Health & Place, 12/2 (2006) 203-209. doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2004.11.005
Gayle C. Windham, Lixia Zhang, Robert Gunier, Lisa A. Croen, Judith K. Grether, Autism Spectrum Disorders in Relation to Distribution of Hazardous Air Pollutants in the San Francisco Bay Area, Environ. Health Perspect., 114/9 (2006) 1438-1444. doi:10.1289/ehp.9120
Robert Nataf, Corinne Skorupka, Lorene Amet, Alain Lam, Porphyrinuria in childhood autistic disorder: Implications for environmental toxicity, Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol., 214 (2006) 99-108. doi:10.1016/j.taap.2006.04.008
Thomas A. Lewandowski, Questions regarding environmental mercury release, special education rates, and autism disorder: An ecological study of Texas by Palmer et al., Health & Place, 12/4 (2006) 749-750. doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2005.10.005
Raymond F. Palmer, Stephen Blanchard, Robert Wood, Proximity to point sources of environmental mercury release as a predictor of autism prevalence, Health & Place, 2008. doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2008.02.001