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The trend is defined and visualized by plotting autism prevalence vs.
birth year, which permits direct comparison with trends in environmental factors, given assumption 1 above.
The list includes lead, methylmercury, polychorinated biphenyls, organophosphate pesticides, organochlorine pesticides, endocrine disruptors, automotive exhaust, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, and perfluorinated compounds.
The list was based largely on epidemiological studies showing an increased risk of autism or related pervasive developmental delay (PDD) with increased exposure to the compounds [ 80,000 synthetic chemicals developed over the past 50 years, many of which have never been assessed for potential toxicity, they were intended as a short list for which concentrated study has a high potential to generate actionable results in the near future .
Diagnosed autism prevalence has risen dramatically in the U.
S over the last several decades and continued to trend upward as of birth year 2005.
It involves tracking children of a specific age over multiple, successive years of reports, e.g., 8 year-olds in the biannual Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network reports .The constant-age tracking method suggests a strong increase in the prevalence of diagnosed autism in the U. over the last few decades, both in the ADDM network and in data from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which are used in the current study.IDEA data have the advantage that each individual year’s report gives separate autism counts for each age between 5 and 17 years old, effectively providing a snapshot, resolved by age, for that year. birth year curve can be constructed from any individual IDEA report, providing an independent, alternative approach to constant-age tracking for estimating the temporal trend in autism.The ratio of the snapshot:tracking trend slopes was used to estimate the "real" fraction of the increase in autism.The CDDS and IDEA data sets are qualitatively consistent in suggesting a strong increase in autism prevalence over recent decades.
Others have argued that autism is caused primarily by environmental triggers acting on a genetically susceptible subset of children and that epigenetics play an important role in mediating how environmental toxins affect gene expression .