New Research Links Autism & Kid’s Environment

New Research Links Autism & Kid’s Environment

January 7, 2011

By Healthy Child Staff

A new scientific study linking autism to environmental exposures has rocked the pediatric health care community—including Healthy Child Healthy World. Just last month, I introduced the newest article in our “Perspectives” series, featuring contributions from members of our advisory boards, as well as prominent organizations and members of the scientific community, by referencing a group of experts who agreed that “there is no clear data on why autism occurs.”

That was then, this is now.

On Monday, the story broke that researchers at the University of California at San Francisco and Stanford University conducted a study of 192 pairs of twins and found that genetics account for about 38 percent of the risk of autism, and environmental factors account for about 62 percent. The study will be published in January in the January issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

To say that this is important is an understatement. Over the past 48 hours, resulting stories in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and countless other online publications reported the newly discovered link between the environment and autism.

Experts predict that the data will result in a seismic shift in perception of the disability, which now affects one in every 100 children—or one in every 70 boys. Autism is America’s fastest growing disability—increasing nearly 400% over the last 20 years—and now affects an estimated 1.5 million children in the United States alone.

“This pivotal study underlines an important truth for our times: the dramatic increase in autism we’ve experienced is indeed linked to environmental exposures,” says Dr. Alan Greene, author, pediatrician and Healthy Child Advisory Board Member. “The closer we look, the more we’re understanding this link to be true for many rapidly increasing childhood conditions. We’ve ignored toxic chemicals in kids’ environments to their peril.”

Meanwhile, a study published this month in the journal Epidemiology showed that taking prenatal vitamins at the time of conception decreased the risk of autism in children by almost half, Environmental Health News reported. This is another critical study emphasizing how small lifestyle changes can have huge impacts.