Autism may be linked to environmental factors, research says

A new study looking into possible environmental causes of autism, a neurological disorder that affects communication and social-interaction abilities, demonstrates that a suite of pollutants working in combination can critically affect a developing embryo. The research focused on several chemicals found more than a decade ago in Brick, N.J., an area with an unusually high rate of the disorder. A federal study done in 2001 dismissed any connection between the pollutants and the autism found in one in 150 children in Brick, but residents pressed for more study, and their story reached a team of scientists who decided to look at the effects of the contaminants in combination. Said Carol L. Reinisch of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass., who led the research in the community, “What this study showed is it’s the mixture of these chemicals that cause the uptick in an enzyme that’s very important to neural development.”