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Study Links Environmental Conditions To Autism

Environmental factors may play more of a role in the risk for causing autism than genetic factors.

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Photo: Blake Facey (Flickr)

One study attributes as much as 55 percent of the risk of autism to a child's environment.

A new study from a psychiatrist at the Stanford University School of Medicine said that environmental factors may play more of a role in the risk for causing autism than genetic factors. Dr. Joachim Hallmayer reported in the archives of general psychiatry that environment factors may account for an influence of 55 percent of the risk for autism. Craig Erickson, chief of the Riley Hospital for Children Christian Sarkine Autism Treatment Center, said the results of the study are a bit confusing.

“We’ve known for about 34 years that there’s a really strong genetic component to autism and for this study to come out and say that the environmental component is maybe twice as important as genes doesn’t really jibe with what we’ve known for years,” said Erickson.

Erickson said three decades of research shouldn’t be thrown out by one report.

“What we don’t want to do is have an alarmist reaction to this and worry about a lot of environmental exposures including things we don’t even know what they are,” said Erickson. That‘s how you get into some of the vaccine storing and other fear-based proposals to what may cause autism.”

He said the report proves that there is much more work to be done in the study of what causes autism.

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