Proximity to point sources of environmental mercury release as a predictor of autism prevalence

Health Place. 2009 Mar;15(1):18-24. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2008.02.001. Epub 2008 Feb 12.


The objective of this study was to determine if proximity to sources of mercury pollution in 1998 were related to autism prevalence in 2002. Autism count data from the Texas Educational Agency and environmental mercury release data from the Environmental Protection Agency were used. We found that for every 1000 pounds of industrial release, there was a corresponding 2.6% increase in autism rates (p<.05) and a 3.7% increase associated with power plant emissions(P<.05). Distances to these sources were independent predictors after adjustment for relevant covariates. For every 10 miles from industrial or power plant sources, there was an associated decreased autism Incident Risk of 2.0% and 1.4%, respectively (p<.05). While design limitations preclude interpretation of individual risk, further investigations of environmental risks to child development issues are warranted.

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / chemically induced
  • Autistic Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Forecasting
  • Geography*
  • Humans
  • Industry
  • Mercury / adverse effects
  • Mercury / analysis*
  • Texas / epidemiology


  • Mercury