Autism Clusters in California May Have Environmental Link


Researchers at U.C. Davis are trying to connect the dots leading to 10 autism clusters in California. One theory is that those parents are using certain hazardous household products, exposing their kids to dangers linked to the neuro-developmental disorder that usually surfaces by the time a child turns three.

According to the Contra Costa Times and other news sources reporting the findings, the study authors don’t attribute the cases to a toxic waste plant or other widespread polluter, but rather to household items like cleaners or landscaping products.

The report released by the University this week says the clusters show autism rates nearly twice the amount of ones in surrounding areas, including three in the Bay Area: Parts of Redwood City, San Carlos and Belmong; Parts of Santa Clara and Sunnyvale; Western San Francisco. No clusters were found in the East Bay.

Other clusters are in Southern California and the Central Valley. And one San Diego cluster was found to have rates of 61.2 per 10,000 births, compared with 27.1 per 10,000 births in the surrounding region. The researchers said the study is the first one looking at the geography of autism births in the state to learn of local sections of elevated environmental risk.

In producing the study, which was published online in the journal Autism Research, the scientists looked at nearly all of the 2.5 million births recorded in California from 1996 to 2000. The report says some 10,000 children born during that period were later diagnosed with autism.

The scientists who conducted the study are now conducting two additional studies examining the environmental causes of autism, and plan to collect dust samples from the homes of 1,300 families to see if common chemicals are the culprits.

Main Image: Mercury News

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.