Melinda Beck has an interesting piece at WSJ.com (FREE ACCESS TODAY) about a new study of autism rates in California. They vary markedly from place to place, and no one has a totally satisfactory explanation. Excerpt:
You may have also read that the British medical journal The Lancet had to retract an article in published several years ago purportedly linking autism to childhood vaccinations. You can read more about that in John Gever's article at MedPageToday.
Both of the California-based studies suggest that local environmental or social factors are driving the high autism-diagnosis rates. And they conclude that childhood vaccinations—which some people fear is a factor behind rising autism—are not to blame. Otherwise, diagnoses of the disorder would be more evenly dispersed, they say.
The studies also disagree on some points. According to the UC Davis study, greater concentrations of autism occur in communities where parents are highly educated, which could mean they have more awareness of autism and access to treatment. By contrast, the Columbia researchers discount the role of educational levels. They believe that social influences, such as shared information about diagnoses, doctors and services, are largely responsible for the high rates they found in parts of Los Angeles.