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A flawed link to autism

August 05, 2007

Re "Pesticide link to autism suspected, July 30

The Times' article on a preliminary study linking pesticides to autism shows how politics can interfere with scientific work. The cases of autism in a general area exposed to the chemicals was 465 out of 300,000. This is an incidence of 1 case per 645 births. The article notes the overall incidence of autism is about 1 in 150 births. Hence, one might conclude it is much less likely that children will be born autistic if they live in an area sprayed by these chemicals. Regarding the eight cases in 29 births of those living closest to the area being sprayed, this number is far too small for any meaningful analysis. These chemicals may indeed cause autism, but this study provides little information to enlighten us; it does provide political fodder and sexy headlines.

Richard P. Guess

Newport Beach

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