Environmental mercury release, special education rates, and autism disorder: an ecological study of Texas

Health Place. 2006 Jun;12(2):203-9. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2004.11.005.


The association between environmentally released mercury, special education and autism rates in Texas was investigated using data from the Texas Education Department and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. A Poisson regression analysis adjusted for school district population size, economic and demographic factors was used. There was a significant increase in the rates of special education students and autism rates associated with increases in environmentally released mercury. On average, for each 1,000 lb of environmentally released mercury, there was a 43% increase in the rate of special education services and a 61% increase in the rate of autism. The association between environmentally released mercury and special education rates were fully mediated by increased autism rates. This ecological study suggests the need for further research regarding the association between environmentally released mercury and developmental disorders such as autism. These results have implications for policy planning and cost analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Autistic Disorder / etiology
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Ecology
  • Education, Special / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Geography
  • Hazardous Waste / adverse effects
  • Hazardous Waste / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Industrial Waste / analysis*
  • Mercury Poisoning, Nervous System / complications
  • Methylmercury Compounds / analysis*
  • Methylmercury Compounds / toxicity
  • Poisson Distribution
  • Schools
  • Texas / epidemiology
  • United States
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency


  • Hazardous Waste
  • Industrial Waste
  • Methylmercury Compounds