Thursday, March 20, 2014

Autism, Pollution, And Genital Malformations: The Missing Link

When it comes to autism, the rule for flogging research findings in the news media appears to be “Go big or go home.” And that gets us teasers like this one: A new study offers strong evidence that environmental toxins play a role in the disorder. The report looked at birth defects associated with parental exposure to pollution and found a 1% increase in the defects corresponded to a 283% increase in autism. Under headlines like this: Growing Evidence That Autism Is Linked to Pollution And this: Growing evidence that autism is linked to pollution with babies 283% more likely to suffer from the condition compared to other birth defects And, saints preserve us, like this: New Causes of Autism Discovered Only problem is, the study in question provided no evidence of causes, much less a link to pollution–and even if we took other studies alleging a link at face value, it wouldn’t even be the same kind of “pollution.” As it is, the authors of this paper didn’t look at “pollution” of any kind. They looked at genital malformations present at birth and claimed that these conditions serve as a proxy or substitute for the presence of “pollution.” They don’t, and no reports have established that they could.

 Read more here.