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Cal: Escalating autism among poor-declining rates among rich

Mar 23, 2020, Laboratory Equipment: Autism Rates Declining Among Wealthy Whites, Escalating Among Poor, Minorities Wealthy, white California counties—once considered the nation's hotbeds for autism spectrum disorder (ASD)—have seen prevalence flatten or fall in the last two decades, while rates among poor whites and minorities keep ticking up, new CU Boulder research has found. The study, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, raises the possibility that parents in wealthier counties are successfully reducing environmental exposures that may contribute to autism risk, or taking other steps to curb its severity early on…. "While autism was once considered a condition that occurs mainly among whites of high socioeconomic status, these data suggest that the brunt of severe autism is now increasingly being borne by low-income families and ethnic minorities," said lead author Cynthia Nevison, an atmospheric research scientist with the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, who also studies environmental health. … For the study, the researchers analyzed 20 years' worth of autism caseload counts from the California Department of Developmental Services, comparing data from 36 of the state's most populous counties. Between birth years 1993 and 2000, autism prevalence increased steadily among all racial groups. But around 2000, the trajectories started to diverge: Prevalence among whites in wealthy counties like Santa Clara (home to Silicon Valley) and from Monterey to the San Francisco coast started to decline. In middle-income counties like Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego, prevalence among whites continued to increase, but at a slower rate. Meanwhile, in lower income areas like Riverside and the South Central Valley, rates among whites climbed steeply. … Some health experts have attributed such increases among minorities to better screening and diagnosis, but the authors believe environmental factors also play a role. Just which factors may be at play is unclear, but Parker notes that many of the same things that fuel disease-causing inflammation—toxins, unhealthy food and emotional stress—are also associated with autism. And lower-income and minority families tend to have a harder time accessing or affording healthier lifestyle options…. With autism affecting one in 59 children nationwide in 2018—a rate expected to be revised by the Centers for Disease Control later this spring—they hope the paper will encourage parents and policymakers to look beyond genetics and better outreach and diagnosis….


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