Does damp weather predict autism?

Posted on December 3, 2008 

Does damp weather predict autism?

Autism is more common in rainy, coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest than in drier, inland parts of three states in the region, according to new research that suggests a possible link between the brain disorder and precipitation.

Autism was twice as common in the damp counties west of the Cascade Mountains than in those east of the range, which get four times less rain, the study in Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine shows. Kids in counties in California where rainfall was heavier also had higher rates of the disorder than children whose first three years of life were spent in drier weather.

Autism causes impaired social interactions, delayed speech, and repetitive movements or behaviors. For unknown reasons, autism prevalence has surged over the past 30 years from an estimated one in 2,500 to one in 150 U.S. children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s not clear why those rates are more elevated in damp areas — including states not in the study such as New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maine and Minnesota — but bad weather that keeps genetically vulnerable kids indoors could play a role, the study authors write.

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