Thursday, October 26, 2006

A link between the TV and Autism?

By now you've probably heard this. You can read the story at TIME if you haven't. Basically, three economists have looked at some numbers that suggest autism may be caused by watching TV when you're a kid. Yes, the TIME article actually uses the word "cause."

What the economists did is look at cable subscription data and rainfall patterns (because kids watch more TV when it rains). Surprisingly, they found that in places where cable subscriptions grew fastest and precipitation was highest, the autism rates were abnormal. According to their research, 17 percent of "growth in autism" in California and Pennsylvania is "due to the growth of cable." Another 40 percent of autism cases, they believe, is caused by "television watching due to precipitation."

Am I the only one that finds this totally ridiculous? Wasn't autism something you're born with? Or is it really like a disease that you can catch by, say, watching TV? I'm not sure, but one doctor explained to TIME, "[the economists] ignore the reasonable body of evidence that suggest that the pathologic process behind autism probably starts in utero."

Others are skeptical for different reasons. One geneticist told TIME, "How do you know, for instance, that it's not mold or mildew in the counties that have a lot of rain?" TIME also points out that it could be the air quality indoor, or that there are more pediatricians scanning for autism in communities where cable has grown the fastest.

How big of a problem is autism? Back in 1970, about one in 2,500 kids were diagnosed with the disorder. Today, one in 170 are diagnosed.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.