Autism Clusters Found In California

Emerging research has found that 10 areas in the state of California have twice the rates of <"">autism versus surrounding areas, reports Reuters. Also, it seems that the autism clusters are in locations in which the majority of the demographic is white, with very educated parents, added Reuters.

The research was conducted at the University of California Davis (UC Davis) and was initiated to understand what might be prompting the increased rates, said Reuters. One in 110 children in the United States is diagnosed with autism, explained Reuters.

According to Irva Hertz-Picciotto a researcher at the UC Davis’ MIND Institute, the findings may point to issues with the healthcare system in the United States rather than to causes of autism, said Reuters. The study appears in the current issue of the journal Autism Research. Hertz-Picciotto and colleagues, said Reuters, utilized a technique long used at locating clusters in which cancer is predominant. “This kind of analysis sometimes turns up clues about environmental factors,” she said in a telephone interview with Reuters.

The team analyzed some 2.5 million California births from 1996 through 2000; 10,000 of those children were subsequently diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, said Reuters, citing California’s state department of developmental services. The team then found the link between the children’s high autism rates and their parents’ education, said Reuters.

“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, quoted Reuters. “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 added, pointing out that, “It was also a greater likelihood to be white, non-Hispanic, and for the parents to be a little bit older.”

Hertz-Picciotto said, “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.” It’s possible, she said, that parents in lower socioeconomic areas and who have lower education levels might not be having their children diagnosed, which could mean that there are increased autism rates in some areas, explained Reuters.

The team is now involved in two other studies. One is looking at environmental issues, such as dust samples in the homes in which a child has been diagnosed with autism; the other will look at expectant mothers who have a child diagnosed with autism in order to determine of common denominators exist, reported Reuters.

The origins of autism have long been questioned and critics have blamed PCBs, mercury, and vaccinations, to name a few. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) was recently found—in two studies—to contain mercury, which has been at the root of a long and expansive debate over its connection to vaccines, fish, and the prevalence of autism and autism spectrum disorders plaguing children today.

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