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Reviews on Environmental Health

Editor-in-Chief: Carpenter, David O. / Sly, Peter

Editorial Board: Brugge, Doug / Edwards, John W. / Field, R.William / Garbisu, Carlos / Hales, Simon / Horowitz, Michal / Lawrence, Roderick / Maibach, H.I. / Shaw, Susan / Tao, Shu / Tchounwou, Paul B.

4 Issues per year

IMPACT FACTOR 2017: 1.284

CiteScore 2017: 1.29

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.438
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.603

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Volume 26, Issue 2


The value of ecologic studies: mercury concentration in ambient air and the risk of autism

K. Stephen Blanchard / Raymond F. Palmer
  • San Antonio Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, TX, USA
  • Other articles by this author:
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/ Zachary Stein
Published Online: 2011-05-31 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/reveh.2011.015


Ecologic studies of the spatial relationship between disease and sources of environmental contamination can help to ascertain the degree of risk to populations from contamination and to inform legislation to ameliorate the risk. Population risks associated with persistent low-level mercury exposure have recently begun to be of concern and current reports implicate environmental mercury as a potential contributor in the etiology of various developmental and neurodegenerative diseases including autism and Alzheimer’s disease. In this demonstration of preliminary findings, we demonstrate for Bexar County Texas and Santa Clara County California, the hypothesis that the spatial structure of the occurrence of autism has a positive co-variation with the spatial structure of the distribution of mercury in ambient air. The relative risk of autism is greater in the geographic areas of higher levels of ambient mercury. We find that the higher levels of ambient mercury are geographically associated with point sources of mercury emission, such as coal-fired power plants and cement plants with coal-fired kilns. Although this does not indicate a cause, these results should not be dismissed, but rather seen as a preliminary step for generating a hypothesis for further investigation.

Keywords: ambient mercury; autism; ecologic analysis; point sources

About the article

Corresponding author: K. Stephen Blanchard, Department of Sociology, Our Lady of the Lake University, 411 SW 24th Street, San Antonio, TX 78207, USA Phone: +1-210-434-6711 ext. 2273, Fax: +1-210-431-3927

Received: 2010-07-01

Revised: 2010-07-20

Accepted: 2010-08-02

Published Online: 2011-05-31

Published in Print: 2011-06-01

Citation Information: Reviews on Environmental Health, Volume 26, Issue 2, Pages 111–118, ISSN (Online) 2191-0308, ISSN (Print) 0048-7554, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/reveh.2011.015.

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