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Fish Consumption Advisories and the Surprising Relationship to Prevalence Rate of Developmental Disability as Reported by Public Schools

Author(s): M. Catherine DeSoto | Robert T. Hitlan

Journal: Journal of Environmental Protection
ISSN 2152-2197

Volume: 03;
Issue: 11;
Start page: 1579;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: Mercury | Prenatal | Autism | ASD | Seafood | Diet | Environmental Health Environmental Mercury Exposure and Prevalence Rate of Autism as Reported by Public Schools

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), fish consumption is the most significant route of mercury exposure, and the concern is greatest for women of childbearing age due to the potential for neurodevelopmental effects on a developing fetus. Rates of developmental disorders vary. But in 2008 it was demonstrated that the rate of autism is higher near industries that emit heavy metals. Furthermore past research findings can be taken to show that where a pregnancy occurred may predict later autism likelihood in the offspring more than where diagnosis occurs. If mercury plays any role in developmental disabilities, the rate of disability should relate to any reliable direct measure of contamination. The current research focuses on one index of environmental mercury contamination. Specifically, mercury-related fish advisories are found to be a surprisingly strong predictor of a state’s autism rate, r = 0.48, p < 0.001. The relationship remains strong after controlling for student to teacher ratio and per pupil spending. It is argued that a secular increase in autism has been occurring and that prenatal exposure to heavy metal toxins may play a significant role. Because we suspect this finding may be of some interest, the full data set is provided in the appendix so that researchers can independently analyze the key findings which rely on CDC, EPA and IDEA data sets.
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