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Rainy Areas in U.S. Show Higher Autism Rates

Children might be exposed to environmental triggers that can trigger a genetic predisposition to autism

 November 3, 2008

 Children who live in areas of the United States that get a lot of precipitation appear to have a higher risk of developing autism, a new study suggests.

Because these children may spend more time indoors or because rain brings chemicals in the atmosphere to the ground, they might be exposed to environmental triggers that can trigger a genetic predisposition to autism, the researchers say.
One possible explanation for this correlation is vitamin D deficiency, Waldman said. "There is a fair amount of research that vitamin D deficiency in young children causes problems. As children aren't outside as much, they aren't getting enough vitamin D, and that's serving as a trigger for autism," he said.
Another possibility is children are spending too much time watching TV or videos, Waldman said. "There are various papers showing associations between early childhood television viewing and various problems concerning cognitive outcomes, sleep problems, behavior problems, etc.," he noted.
A third possibility is exposure to chemicals in the home which trigger autism, Waldman said. In addition, there may be a chemical or chemicals in the upper atmosphere that are transported to the surface by precipitation.
There is debate about whether autism is caused by genetics alone or genetics and the environment, Waldman said. "Our results are inconsistent with it being just genetic."
For the study, Waldman's team looked at the prevalence of autism among children in California, Oregon and Washington. They also used data from the National Climatic Data Center to calculate the average annual rainfall by county in these states.
The researchers found among school-aged children in these states that the prevalence of autism rose as the amount of precipitation increased. In fact, the prevalence in autism increased up to 30 percent in the rainiest counties.
Over the past three decades, the number of children diagnosed with any form of autism has increased from one in 2,500 children to one in 150 children.

These results are not definitive evidence in favor of the hypothesis that autism has an environmental trigger, but the results are consistent with the hypothesis.. "For the future, one feels it will be essential to study levels of toxins in soil, crop and food samples from the different counties investigated in the Waldman study. A positive correlation would greatly reinforce the environmental hypothesis," he said.

Web Source: http://www.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=620935

Source: By Steven Reinberg, HealthDay Reporter,Nov. 03, 2008, SOURCES: Michael Waldman, Ph.D., professor, economics, Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.; Noel S. Weiss, M.D., Dr.P.H., professor, epidemiology, University of Washington, Seattle; Richard Lathe, Ph.D., Pieta Research, Edinburgh, U.K., and author, Autism, Brain and Environment; November 2008, Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine

Dr. Iverson's Comment
 
Well, once again another rainy-day story for this wintry time. I chose this article because it relates to the health of all of us, not just children who are Autistic.
 
I have been giving presentations on the dangers of environmental chemicals and the impact they have on our health for many years now. These toxins can impact our immunity in a way that can worsen chronic disease and make us more susceptible to diseases in which we have a genetic predisposition.   For instance, even if one didn’t smoke, if one had a history of cancer in ones family and lived in an environment where the air was more contaminated, one would run a much greater chance of acquiring lung cancer. Therefore, chemicals are something that all of us should be concerned of.
 
The first fall rains are the most toxic. They carry the chemicals which have been building up in the atmosphere down to the earth. As concerning as this is, we must be even more aware of what the EPA tells us about the levels of chemicals, which are higher in our homes than outside due to the off-gassing within our homes. Therefore, the amount of time we spend in the house hiding from the rain and cold significantly increases our indoor environmental exposure. 
 
I still recommend getting outside as often as possible, especially once the rain has settled the chemicals out of the air. Having the windows open to let the air move from the house, and using HEPA air filters are very important in removing airborne toxins. Also, be sure to minimize your exposure to chemicals by cleansing your body seasonally to lower your overall chemical body-burden.   It’s a new year coming up…do you have your cleansing dates on the calendar?
 
Be Well!
 
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