In 10 California locations, researchers found children with double the rates of autism than surrounding areas. The common link? All had parents that were largely white, affluent and highly educated. The studies were done by researchers at University of California, Davis who had been on the hunt for environmental factors that may be contributing to rising numbers of autism cases—a developmental disorder that now affects up to one in 90 children. But the findings pointed to something else: a greater rate of diagnosis among children of well-educated families.
Researcher Irva Hertz-Picciotto of UC Davis" MIND Institute, who was involved in the study that will appear in the journal Autism Research, told Reuters that just because such findings do not point to areas of greater contamination which may play an role in rising autism cases, that doesn't rule out environmental factors as autism triggers, studies of which are on the rise.
Her own research team will continue to search for environmental clues to autism. First, they will be collecting dust samples from some 1,300 homes with autistic children to test for chemicals such as flame retardants. They will also begin monitoring pregnant women who have already given birth to one autistic child in order to search for common exposures.