Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Autism and junk science

November 27, 2012

As many as one in 88 children — and one in 54 boys — have a form of autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control. A new study attempts to pin the rise in autism to exposure to air pollution during pregnancy — but it’s a statistically invalid junk study, ACSH experts say.  The researchers, led by Dr. Heather Volk of the University of Southern California, looked at the records of 279 children with autism and 245 children without the condition, and claimed that living near traffic air pollution was associated with a threefold increased risk of developing autism. The study was published in Archives of General Psychiatry.

“This is a ridiculous study,” declares ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross. “They didn’t measure anything. They just used the mothers’ and infants’ addresses to estimate pollution based on a statistical model. It’s just ridiculous — it doesn’t even rise to the level of nonsense — and yet look at how much media attention it got.”  “Their premise itself is insane,” adds ACSH’s Dr. Josh Bloom. “Air quality is better now than it was 20 years ago, yet we have much more autism? I would love to hear their explanation for that one.”  There’s also no plausible biological hypothesis for how nitrogen dioxide would cause autism, Dr. Ross says.

Forbes goes into further detail about problems with the study, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. The institute has been a promiscuous promulgator of junk science, exemplified by its journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

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