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Link found between autism and rainfall

10:01 AM, November 3, 2008

Deepening the mystery surrounding the causes of autism, researchers have found a link between high levels of precipitation and increased rates of autism -- a disorder that affects one in 150 American children.

In a study to be released today in November's Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Cornell University economist Michael Waldman found that in areas of California, Oregon and Washington that experienced high levels of rain and snowfall during the years 1987-2001, autism rates among school-aged children rose when measured in 2005. Those children diagnosed with autism would have been under 3 during the periods of high precipitation, the period during which autism is generally diagnosed.

Both Waldman and Dr. Noel S. Weiss of the University of Washington, Seattle, who wrote an editorial about the study in the Archives, cautioned that the findings are very preliminary and stressed that they opened a world of possible explanations for autism besides rainfall itself. High levels of precipitation could mean kids spend more time indoors exposed to household toxins such as cleaning products, or watching TV. Both are hypothesized factors in the development of the disorder. The kids could spend less time in the sunshine, suppressing their bodies' production of Vitamin D, Waldman suggested. Or the link could suggest a more direct role of rainfall in giving rise to autism, he wrote, washing some toxin into drinking water or something else to which children are exposed.

Weiss suggested that the data from which Waldman drew his autism statistics could be unreliable, as diagnoses and records of those diagnoses vary from state to state and county to county.

-- Melissa Healy


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Clandestine subterranean lab facilities generating subliminal microwaves cause autism and alzheimers.

This is one of the dumbest things I've heard in a long time and, given that this is an election year, that's saying a lot.

If this theory is true it would imply that autism rates in Seattle and Portland would be higher than in Phoenix or Albuquerque every single year!

Are they?

The cause of Autism in the 1990's is the implementation of the SIDS Back to Sleep Campaign which diminsishes slow wave sleep in infants.

If you have a child that was diagnosed with autism and/or PDD-NOS ask yourself if you put the child to sleep on it's back as an infant or gave it a pacifier. They are the two main ways Slow Wave Sleep is inhbitied in children. SWS is very important in terms of learning and development.

I would suggest that the authors of the paper look more towards toxins in rainwater as mentioned at the end of the article. Levels of PCBs have gone down throughout the nation since its banning of use here a couple decades ago. Everywhere, except, in the northwest where we have been receiving increased levels in rainfall coinciding with the increase in coal-fired power plants in China which still use PCBs in lubrication and cooling of the turbines. The northwest now has levels higher than the highest levels in the US prior to the ban and will only incease as China continues to build more coal-fired plants at a very high rate (one a week or something like that...) I don't know if there have been links made beyond the know cancer causing effects, to autism, but I would hazard a guess that it certainly could have developments effects as it is stored long-term in body in fat tissues.

As an aside, I feel that it is not "free trade" unless other countries are require to follow the trading partners requirements in it's own contry for worker protection/rights, and environments protection. Perhaps the next president can think about things like this, and in another way help save our jobs and country.

The rain - autism link is nothing new. I blogged about it TWO YEARS AGO!!!

This is quite a ridiculous theory. The underlying premise, that Autism rates increase with hours spent indoors, should be quite easy to test. But how do we know if children predisposed to Autism show a preference to playing indoors. And do children predisposed to Autism show problems which give their caregivers cause for prefering to keep them indoors? How did Autism rates in 'rainy' States compare with dryer ones? How this nothing-new study has gained media coverage I will never know. If offers no new direction for study. It best illustrates how completely unrelated correlations exist in the world.

What about Chernobyl?

Some say reporters should have taken a pass on the rain and autism study. Should reporters take a pass on UVB radiation? Do you know what effect water vapor has on UVB radiation? Do you know what role UVB radiation plays in vitamin D production? Should reporters take a pass on a developmental neurosteroid as potent as activated vitamin D?

Should reporters have taken a pass when CDC researchers found autism rates in Atlanta were twice as high for African Americans as for whites?

Bhasin TK, Schendel D. Sociodemographic Risk Factors for Autism in a US Metropolitan Area. J Autism Dev Disord 2007;37(4):667–77.

Should reporters have taken a pass when they found out autism rates were so much higher in the very dark-skinned Somali immigrants in Minneapolis?

Should reporters have taken a pass when NIH researchers recently announced they found bony abnormalities in autistic children consistent with chronic vitamin D deficiency?

Hediger ML et al. Reduced bone cortical thickness in boys with autism or autism spectrum disorder. J Autism Dev Disord. 2008 May;38(5):848-56.

What about when NIH researchers found that mothers who consumed vitamin D containing fatty fish had children with fewer adverse neurodevelopmental signs, should reporters have passed on that?

Hibbeln JR, Davis JM, Steer C, et al. Maternal seafood consumption in pregnancy and neurodevelopmental outcomes in childhood (ALSPAC study): an observational cohort study. Lancet 2007;369(9561):578–85.

Should reporters have taken a pass when an urban/rural gradient was discovered for autism, a gradient similar to the gradient that led to the cure for rickets?

Williams JG, Higgins JP, Brayne CE. Systematic review of prevalence studies of autism spectrum disorders. Arch Dis Child 2006;91(1):8–15.

Should reporters take a pass on the alarming incidence of gestational vitamin D deficiency?

Bodnar LM, Simhan HN, Powers RW, Frank MP, Cooperstein E, Roberts JM. High prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency in black and white pregnant women residing in the northern United States and their neonates. J Nutr 2007;137(2): 447–52.

While many readers know of the profound heritability of autism, how many readers know one inherits your epigenome as well as your genome and nothing is quite as epigenetic as vitamin D?

Should reporters take a pass when they realize that the apparent rise in both incidence and prevalence parallels the rise in gestational vitamin D deficiency? The list goes on and on; the needless suffering goes on and on, prenatal prevention only pennies a day away.

Cannell JJ. Autism and vitamin D. Med Hypotheses. 2008;70(4):750-9.

Yes, I know alternative theories exist to explain the above observations. Anyone can come up with ten different theories to explain ten different observations. UNC School of Medicine taught me that the God of scientific theory is Parsimony.

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