Could coal power stations and autism really be connected? Maybe – at least professor David Austin of Swinbourne University thinks they could be. According to Austin, research published in the United States shows that there may be an increased rates of autism among kids who live near coal fired power stations. It’s not the actual power station, but mercury associated with the power station, that’s likely the culprit. According to past research from the University of Texas Health Science Center, there is a significant link between pounds of industrial mercury released and increased autism rates. This same Texas study showed a statistically significant association between autism risk and distance from the mercury source.
To sum up, the Texas study doesn’t show that there’s a definitive link between power plants and autism, but it does show that there is a very real, and growing, association between environmental mercury and autism. Like most autism organizations, The Autism Society doesn’t recognize specific set-in-concrete causes of autism, but they do recognize that there may be a link between environmental toxins and children with autism. According to The Autism Society:
“Those who are at risk of developing autism have a metabolic impairment that reduces their ability to rid their bodies of heavy metals and other toxins. Build-up of these toxins in the body can lead to brain and nervous system damage and developmental delays.”