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Autism and prenatal exposure to storms

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D K Kinney

Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

QUESTION

Question:

Is the prevalence of autism linked to prenatal exposure to hurricanes and storms?

Population:

All children in utero and born between 1980 and 1995 in Louisiana identified through records from the National Centre for Health Statistics in Maryland.

Setting:

Louisiana, USA.

Assessment:

Children born in the time period of interest diagnosed with DSM-III-R or IV autistic disorder since 1990 were identified from records held at Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH). Data on storms affecting Louisiana between 1980 and 1995 were collected from the National Weather Service. The severity of the exposure depended on the impact the storm had on the area (parish) and how vulnerable the residents of that parish were to the storm’s effects. Being in utero in New Orleans when a hurricane centre passed through the city was considered to be a high exposure; intermediate exposure was defined as being born in New Orleans or being in utero in a parish hit by a hurricane but not both; and the low exposure group were all children who did not fit high or intermediate exposure criteria. The prevalence of autism was compared across parishes according to storm exposure. Prevalence of autism was also compared …

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