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[personal profile] mellowtigger
Well, a new study shows that there is actually a link of some kind between autism diagnosis and proximity to environmental mercury exposure. Not only that, but it shows a statistically significant link between risk level and distance from the mercury source such that "... community autism prevalence is reduced by 1 percent to 2 percent with each 10 miles of distance from the pollution source."

The study was done on data from Texas, where I grew up. They looked at influence from coal-fired power plants and other industrial facilities. They did not consider mercury contamination from the water supply, where decades of defoliant use on cotton crops has made the groundwater into a known health hazard during dry seasons.  Thankfully, the author is apparently aware of another issue (individual response to mercury) and stated plainly that, “This study was not designed to understand which individuals in the population are at risk due to mercury exposure."

I'm a bit of an agnostic in this debate. I do not believe that autism is just another word for mercury poisoning. I do not believe that autistics respond the same way to mercury as the rest of the population. I could fairly be called a fence sitter, just waiting for more information. That's fine. My own thoughts are more specific but just harder to classify in the usual dichotomy.

My pet theory: Autism results when an environmental factor (edit: mercury? zinc?) triggers an awakening (via epigenetic influence) of long-dormant genes, specifically genes related to the metabolism of metals (mercury and others) that were never quite "completed" successfully whenever they were last being worked on by evolutionary pressures. How soon and how fully the old genetic machinery awakens may influence the constellation of symptoms experienced by the individual.

Shorter translation: Mother Nature is experimenting again with an old, previously shelved model of human, and we call the results autism.

*goes back to sitting on the fence, waiting for more information, mulling more thoughts about my quack theory*


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