ARE AUTISM RESEARCHERS MISSING OR IGNORING THE CLUES?
U.S. researchers have identified 10 locations in California that have double the rates of autism found in surrounding areas, and these clusters were located in neighbourhoods with high concentrations of white, highly educated parents.
"Our result indicates that the most likely sources of environmental hazards for autism in California are in or around the home or else are widespread."
Other clues not examined or mentioned by the researchers as environmental hazards:
White highly educated persons are:
a. More likely to be early and long time users of cell phones (due to high cost of early cell phones and service).
b. More likely to be early and long time users of cordless home telephones (due to high cost of early wireless telephones).
c. More likely to have increased numbers of electrical and wireless gadgets, and live in a highly electrified home environment.
d. More likely to have children that have been exposed to much higher than normal levels of radiofrequency and microwave radiation.
Electro magnetic radiation is known to cause neurological harm to people who have been exposed.
Electro magnetic radiation has been linked to many illnesses and adverse health effects.
Scientific research has already found strong links between EMR and autism.
Why are these autism researchers and doctors ignoring the above facts? Why are autism societies and health care workers not warning the public and pregnant women to avoid radiofrequency, microwave and electro magnetic radiation?
If electro magnetic radiation is the cause of the autism plague, it is likely to get much worse in the next few years! The massive increase in radiation exposure of families during the last five years, will not likely show adverse health results for a few more years.
Does our society really want to risk the health of all the children of a whole generation, for the sake of simple conveniences we do not even need?
Study turns up 10 autism clusters in California
Tue Jan 5, 2010 4:42pm EST
Mon, Jan 4 2010
Fri, Dec 18 2009
Mon, Oct 19 2009
Mon, Oct 5 2009
* Clusters linked with education, health access
* Local contaminants likely not to blame - researcher
By Julie Steenhuysen
CHICAGO, Jan 5 (Reuters) - U.S. researchers have identified 10 locations in California that have double the rates of autism found in surrounding areas, and these clusters were located in neighborhoods with high concentrations of white, highly educated parents.
Researchers at the University of California Davis had hoped to uncover pockets of autism that might reveal clues about triggers in the environment that could explain rising rates of autism, which affects as many as one in 110 U.S. children.
But the findings likely say more about the U.S. healthcare system than the causes of autism, said researcher Irva Hertz-Picciotto of UC Davis' MIND Institute, whose study will be released online on Wednesday in the journal Autism Research.
Advocacy groups have been clamoring for treatment options and for better research to show what might be causing an apparent increase in autism cases.
Hertz-Picciotto and colleagues used a research technique that has been effective at identifying cancer clusters.
"This kind of analysis sometimes turns up clues about environmental factors," she said in a telephone interview.
The researchers looked at about 2.5 million births recorded in California from 1996 through 2000. About 10,000 of those children were later diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, according to the state's department of developmental services.
Using data from birth records, the team found a strong link between parental education and the high rates of autism.
"In this particular case, we found 10 clusters of autism across the state of California. When we looked further, we discovered virtually all of them were areas where there was a higher level of education among the parents who were giving birth in those years," Hertz-Picciotto said.
"We already know that people with a higher education in the United States are more likely to get a diagnosis of autism for their child. It doesn't necessarily mean that autism occurs more frequently in those families," she said.
"It was also a greater likelihood to be white, non-Hispanic, and for the parents to be a little bit older."
ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE
Hertz-Picciotto said studies in Denmark, which offers universal access to healthcare, have found no link between autism and race or socioeconomic status.
"In this country, we have a lot of people who are uninsured. They may not have someone to go to if they have suspicions about their child," she said.
She said some communities with lower education levels and fewer resources may have higher rates of undiagnosed autism. But the study did offer new clues about autism.
"What it tells us is if we want to go looking for environmental factors, they are not going to be these focused fixed points of contamination, for example," she said.
"It is probably going to be something much more widespread -- common sorts of exposures that are more across the board."
Hertz-Picciotto said her team is now undertaking two different kinds of studies to look for environmental causes of autism, a spectrum of diseases ranging from severe and profound inability to communicate and mental retardation to relatively mild symptoms called Asperger's syndrome.
In one, her team plans to collect dust samples from the homes of 1,300 families with autistic children to look for common chemicals, such as flame retardants, that might be playing a role.
In another, the researchers are following pregnant women who have already given birth to a child with autism, to see if there are any common exposures that might be a factor in developing autism.
January 5, 2010 | 2:22 pm
UC Davis researchers searching for autism clusters in hopes of finding an environmental cause for the disorder have identified 10 clusters around the state, but the source of the clusters is not exactly what they expected. The clusters, including five in metropolitan Los Angeles and one in San Diego, are centered on regional developmental services centers in areas with highly educated parents, primarily Caucasians, with high incomes. In short, what they found were clusters of increased diagnostic rates for autism. In one respect, the results were not surprising because it has long been known that high-income, highly educated white parents are more likely to have their children diagnosed with autism and more likely to have them diagnosed at an early age.
"Looking at clustering is often a way to uncover leads about problems in the environment," said epidemiologist Irva Hertz-Picciotto, the senior author of the study. "Mapping has a long history of being a way to get clues" about causes of disease. She was, indeed, surprised by the findings -- "not that there are clusters with parents with higher education, but that it was so consistent across the board." In virtually every cluster they identified, the rate of autism was about twice as high within the cluster as in adjacent regions.
Hertz-Picciotto and her colleagues obtained birth records for 2,453,717 children born in the state between 1996 and 2000. By 2006, the children had all reached at least age 6, the age by which diagnosis of autism is generally accomplished. State records showed that about 9,900 autism cases were in the records of the Department of Developmental Services. The team reported in the journal Autism Research that they identified 10 clusters of autism among the 21 regional offices of the department and two potential clusters. The clusters were primarily in the high-population areas of Southern California and, to a lesser extent, in the San Francisco Bay area.
The clusters were:
-- The Westside Regional Center in Culver City, which serves western Los Angeles County, including Culver City, Inglewood and Santa Monica.
-- The North Los Angeles County Regional Center, in Van Nuys, which serves the San Fernando and Antelope valleys. Two clusters were in this region.
-- The South Central Regional Center in Los Angeles, which serves Compton and Gardena.
-- The Regional Center of Orange County in Santa Ana.
--The Regional Center of San Diego County, which serves San Diego and Imperial counties.
-- The Golden Gate Regional Center in San Francisco, which serves San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties. There are two clusters in this area.
-- The San Andreas Regional Center in Campbell, which serves Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties.
Increased incidence was also noted in two other regions, the Central Valley Regional Center in Stockton and the Valley Mountain Regional Center in Fresno. The incidence of autism was not as high in those regions, however.
Because the team analyzed birth locations and not the location of diagnosis, it is highly unlikely that the parents moved into the cluster regions to seek care, Hertz-Picciotto said.
"In the U.S., the children of older, white and highly educated parents are more likely to receive a diagnosis of autism or autism spectrum disorder," said lead author Karla C. Van Meter, who was a graduate student when the data were collected but is now at the Sonoma County Department of Public Health. "For this reason, the clusters we found are probably not a result of a common environmental exposure. Instead, the differences in education, age and ethnicity of parents comparing births in the cluster versus those outside the cluster were striking enough to explain the clusters."
The team is now looking elsewhere for possible causes. Some previous studies have hinted that exposure to pesticides may play a role and a study in Texas showed that exposure to mercury in the environment --but not in vaccines -- could be a causative agent. "We are casting a wide net, looking at everything we can--pesticides, medical conditions in the mother, medications, flame retardants, etc.," Hertz-Picciotto said. The problem, she conceded, is that, if the exposure is truly widespread, then linking it to autism will be very difficult.
-- Thomas H. Maugh II
Autism Clusters Identified in California; Associated With Areas of Greater Parental Education
ScienceDaily (Jan. 5, 2010) — Researchers at UC Davis have identified 10 locations in California where the incidence of autism is higher than surrounding areas in the same region. Most of the areas, or clusters, are in locations where parents have higher-than-average levels of educational attainment. Because children with more educated parents are more likely to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, one need look no further for a cause, the authors say. The other clusters are located close to major autism treatment centers.
The clusters are located primarily in the high-population areas of Southern California and, to a lesser extent, in the San Francisco Bay Area. The researchers said that, while children born within the clusters during the study period were more likely to be diagnosed with autism, the majority of the state's children with autism were born in adjacent areas outside the clusters.
For the rigorous study, published online in the journal Autism Research, scientists examined nearly all of the approximately 2-1/2 million births recorded in the state of California from 1996 through 2000. About 10,000 children born during that five-year period were later diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, according to the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS).
After mapping the state's birth cohort based on where the mothers lived at the time when their children were born, the researchers pinpointed birth locations of children who were later diagnosed with autism. The study looked for areas of higher incidence within each of the service zones of DDS's regional centers, which coordinate services for individuals with developmental disorders like autism.
"This is the first time that anyone has looked at the geography of autism births in California in order to see whether there might be some local patches of elevated environmental risk. This method ignores unknown widespread factors (such as a regional pollutant) that could increase autism incidence," said Karla Van Meter, the study's lead author. Van Meter is an epidemiologist and was a doctoral student in the UC Davis Department of Public Health Sciences and at the Center for Animal Disease Modeling and Surveillance when the study was conducted.
"This spatial study was extremely rigorous because we developed a methodology that greatly improved accuracy in identifying areas of higher autism incidence. With so many possible environmental health risk factors, we see this method as generally useful for focusing studies on exposures that are elevated in such clusters," Van Meter said.
However, the researchers said that in this investigation the clusters probably are not correlated with specific environmental pollutants or other "exposures." Rather, they correlate to areas where residents are more educated.
"What we found with these clusters was that they correlated with neighborhoods of high education or neighborhoods that were near a major treatment center for autism," said senior author Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a professor of public health sciences and a researcher with the UC Davis MIND Institute.
"In the U.S., the children of older, white and highly educated parents are more likely to receive a diagnosis of autism or autism spectrum disorder. For this reason, the clusters we found are probably not a result of a common environmental exposure. Instead, the differences in education, age and ethnicity of parents comparing births in the cluster versus those outside the cluster were striking enough to explain the clusters of autism cases," Hertz-Picciotto said.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disability characterized by impaired social development and communication and restricted, repetitive behaviors. It is considered a lifelong condition that develops by the time a child is 3 years old. The researchers limited their study to the five-year period between 1996 and 2000 in order to allow all of the children born during that time to grow to an age by which they probably would have received a diagnosis -- 6 years old.
Van Meter said that the increased risk of autism in these areas is roughly a doubling of the incidence of autism over the incidence in the surrounding zone. For example, for the cluster area located in the service zone of the San Diego Regional Center, the autism incidence was 61.2 per 10,000 births and, in the rest of the Regional Center service zone, 27.1 per 10,000 births. For the Harbor Regional Center the incidence was 103.4 and 57.8, respectively. Van Meter added that it is important to remember that most of the children with autism were not born in the cluster areas.
In Southern California, the areas of increased incidence were located within these Regional Center service zones:
1. The Westside Regional Center, headquartered in Culver City, Calif., which serves the communities of western Los Angeles County, including the cities of Culver City, Inglewood and Santa Monica;
2. The Harbor Regional Center, headquartered in Torrance, Calif., which serves southern Los Angeles County, including the cities of Bellflower, Harbor, Long Beach and Torrance;
3. The North Los Angeles County Regional Center, headquartered in Van Nuys, Calif., which serves the San Fernando and Antelope valleys -- two clusters were located in this regional center's service zone.
4. The South Central Los Angeles Regional Center, headquartered in Los Angeles, which serves the communities of Compton and Gardena;
5. The Regional Center of Orange County, headquartered in Santa Ana, Calif., which serves the residents of Orange County; and
6. The Regional Center of San Diego County, headquartered in San Diego, which serves people living in Imperial and San Diego counties.
In Northern California, the areas of increased incidence were located within these regional centers' service zones:
7. The Golden Gate Regional Center, headquartered in San Francisco, which serves Marin and San Mateo counties and the City and County of San Francisco. Two clusters were located within the Golden Gate Regional Center's service zone; and
8. The San Andreas Regional Center, headquartered in Campbell, Calif., which serves Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties.
Two areas of increased incidence were located in Central California regional centers' service zones:
9. The Central Valley Regional Center, headquartered in Fresno, Calif., which serves Fresno, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced and Tulare counties; and
10. The Valley Mountain Regional Center, headquartered in Stockton, Calif., which serves Amador, Calaveras, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties.
The South Central Los Angeles and Valley Mountain Regional Center autism clusters were listed as "potential clusters" because their clusters met a reduced set of statistical conditions.
All of these areas were identified using a sophisticated new biostatistical testing procedure developed by Van Meter in collaboration with study co-author Lasse Christiansen and constructed on Christiansen's earlier statistical work. This method looked for combinations of events, in this case, autism, within a set of locations, in this case, births, whose occurrence would not be expected to occur at random. This is the first application of that method. UC Davis undertook the epidemiological study as a step toward identifying geographic risk factors for autism in California, Van Meter said.
The study also examined demographic factors recorded on the children's birth records that are known to be associated with both autism and residential location. These included having an older parent -- a known autism risk factor. The researchers found a statistically significant but small association of the cluster areas with older parental age at the time their child was born.
Hertz-Picciotto said that the findings do not counter the idea that the environment plays a role in autism, but rather, help to focus attention toward certain types of exposures.
"Because of the strong link between demographics, particularly parental education, and the locations of clusters, other explanations for these pockets of high autism incidence, such as localized sources of exposure, are not likely," Van Meter explained.
"The risk for a child with highly educated parents to be diagnosed with autism is probably not caused by the location of the mother's residence or any local shared environmental exposures," she said. "Our result indicates that the most likely sources of environmental hazards for autism in California are in or around the home or else are widespread."
"The strong link between demographics, particularly parental education, and the locations of the clusters validated the effectiveness of the statistical method that we employed because it successfully identified areas where a known risk factor was concentrated," she added.
Other study authors include Lasse Christiansen of the Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby, and Lora Delwiche, Rahman Azari and Tim Carpenter, all of UC Davis.
The study was funded by the UC Davis MIND (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, an Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grant and the UC Davis Center for Animal Disease Modeling and Surveillance (CADMS).
The UC Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento, Calif., was founded in 1998 as a unique interdisciplinary research center where parents, community leaders, researchers, clinicians and volunteers collaborate to study and treat autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. More information about the institute is available on the Web at