Scientist looking forward

Mapping Contaminants Associated with Autism

ABSTRACT

The rise in reported prevalence rates of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) is a national concern that continues to grow at a record pace. New Jersey has the highest prevalence rate of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) among states surveyed, with approximately 1 in 45 children diagnosed. The pilot study focused on toxins potentially linked to autism: arsenic, lead, manganese, mercury, organophosphate pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, trichloroethylene, and vinyl chloride. In northern NJ there were approximately 4600 Known Contaminated Sites (KCSNJ) where these toxins were detected. A total of 269,790 sample detections were identified. Our objective was to identify and map these sites, and identify methods by which more robust contaminant data could be collected and analyzed. This study resulted in eight original maps showing sample detections. These maps will aid researchers and public health advocates in future analyses exploring links between autism and these toxins. Concentrations of multiple toxins associated with ASDs were most dense near urban industrial or mixed residential/industrial areas, though no conclusions can be made regarding association or causality between the sample detections and autism. Based in part on this study, NJDEP has made and will continue to make improvements to contaminant data collection systems. 

 
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