Mercury linked to increase in Autism

Mercury inside a test tubeMercury – that silvery liquid metal that is still found in many thermometers and heating thermostats, is now being linked to increases of autism in infants and children. Autism is a condition that is found in more boys than girls and now strikes an average of one in every 150 live births in America. Although other factors are also instrumental to causing this unfortunate condition, the increased presence of mercury in our environment is now being linked to causing autism, especially in areas where the presence of mercury is higher.

A study made by researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center found that rates of autism in infants and young children increases in areas close to higher than normal quantities of mercury being found in either the atmosphere — as a result of industrial air pollution, in the water supply — due largely to dumping of industrial wastes into streams and reservoirs, and in the soil — due to leakage of metallic and chemical pollutants into the soil.

The research was conducted on a group of more than 1,000 Texas school children and found that higher rates of autism occurred in areas where mercury and other industrial pollutants were more prevalent. Some of the causes of this pollution include coal-dependant power plants, medical and chemical waste disposal sites, and the manufacture of concrete. All of these sources involve the used the mercury at one stage or another. The researchers found that for every 1,000 pounds of mercury released by either industrial causes or electrical power facilities, the rate of autism is increased by between 2.5% to 3.5%, depending on the distance from the facility and the source of the pollution. The percentages decrease at distances further away from the source of the pollution.

Of course other sources are also linked to mercury pollution and the resulting autism, including eating fish contaminated with mercury (such as mackerel, tuna, and sea bass) as well as the presence of mercury in smoke which may come from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Countries such China and India are heavy users of mercury as they are rising industrial countries and have less stringent anti-industrial pollution laws.

Solutions to reduce this growing danger include enacting stricter laws against industrial pollution, increasing testing of fish and sea food for mercury content, and reducing the presence of mercury in all medical equipment and products. While these steps may not eliminate the tragedy of autism, they will at least somewhat reduce the numbers.

Picture by Wikipedia

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