California's Increase in Autism Cases Linked to Environmental Factors
Posted Jan 14 2009 5:04pm
Autism is on the rise here in the United States. Although, no state has seen as dramatic of an increase as California. A recent study conducted by the MIND (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute at UC Davis found that 9 out of every 10,000 children born in California in 1990 were diagnosed with autism while more than 44 in 10,000 born in 2000 had the disorder by the time they were 6.
The study, led by Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a professor of environmental and occupational health and epidemiology and internationally respected autism researcher, suggested that the increase did not have to do with changes in how autism is diagnosed or counted. Although autism is linked to genetics, Hertz-Picciotto believes that environmental factors play a large part in the increase.
“It’s time to start looking for the environmental culprits responsible for the remarkable increase in the rate of autism in California,” Hertz-Picciotto stated. She also believes that more research dollars need to be spent on the environmental factors associated with the increase rather than genetic causes.
Some people believe that the increase is due to migration into California of families with autistic children, inclusion of children with milder forms of autism or greater awareness. Hertz-Picciotto disagrees. She believes that the rise in the state’s cases of autism can not be caused by the state’s increasingly diverse population because the disorder affects all ethnic groups at fairly similar rates.
Hertz- Picciotto and her colleagues at the MIND Institute are currently conducting two large studies aimed at finding out the causes of autism. The two studies run by Hertz-Picciotto are CHARGE (Childhood Autism Risk from Genetics and the Environment) and MARBLES (Markers of Autism Risk in Babies Learning Early Signs).
CHARGE is the largest study of confirmed cases of autism and the first one that focuses on environmental factors as well as genetic-environment interactions in the disorder. MARBLES is an investigation that follows women who have already had one child with autism beginning early in or even before pregnancy to search for early warning signs that may predict autism in the younger sibling.
The MIND Institute was founded in 1998 by families concerned about autism. This study was published in the January 2009 issue of the journal of Epidemiology