Education Report Roundup

Autism Probe

By Christina A. Samuels — March 30, 2005 1 min read

Texas researchers have found a correlation between the amount of mercury released into an area’s environment and the number of children with autism and in special education in surrounding schools.

An abstract of the report, “Environmental Mercury Release, Special Education Rates, and Autism Disorder: An Ecological Study of Texas,” can be found online from Health & Place Journal.

For every 1,000 pounds of environmentally released mercury in a county in Texas, the rate of autism in its school districts increased by 61 percent, and the rate of children in special education rose by 43 percent, according to researchers at the Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. Environmentally released mercury is usually a byproduct of fossil-fuel combustion by electrical utilities and medical and municipal-waste incinerators.

The researchers say their work cannot support a claim that mercury causes autism or developmental disabilities. But “what is currently known about the low-level toxicity of mercury from behavioral toxicology and behavioral teratology studies is convincing enough to warrant further study,” the report concludes.