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International Journal of Health Geographics

, 11:44

First Online: 11 October 2012Received: 05 July 2012Accepted: 07 October 2012DOI: 10.1186-1476-072X-11-44

Cite this article as: St-Hilaire, S., Ezike, V.O., Stryhn, H. et al. Int J Health Geogr 2012 11: 44. doi:10.1186-1476-072X-11-44


Background and methodsIdiopathic autism, suspected to be caused by exposure of genetically susceptible individuals to unknown environmental triggers, has increased dramatically in the past 25 years. The objectives of our study were to determine, using a linear regression model, whether the county prevalence of autism in the Pacific Northwest of the United States was associated with the source of drinking water for that county and whether this relationship was dependent on the level of environmental pollutants and meteorological factors in the county.

ResultsWe found the previously reported relationship between precipitation and autism in a county was dependent on the amount of drinking water derived from surface sources in the county. We also found a positive association between the EPA’s risk of neurological disease and autism, but this relationship was only present in warm areas.

ConclusionsOur study provides evidence for the hypothesis that environmental factors are associated with autism and that meteorological factors play a role in this relationship.

KeywordsIdiopathic autism Environmental factors Drinking water Air pollutants Precipitation AbbreviationsADDMAutism and Developmental Disorders Monitoring

ASDsAutism spectrum disorders

SSRIsSelective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors

GABAGamma-aminobutyric acid

CDCCenters for Disease Control and Prevention

EPAEnvironmental Protection Agency

HDDHeating degree days which is the annual sum of degrees Celsius required to attain 18.3°C when the air temperature is less than 18.3°C

NCDCNational Climatic Data Center

NOAANational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-1476-072X-11-44 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Author: Sophie St-Hilaire - Victor O Ezike - Henrik Stryhn - Michael A Thomas


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