A new study published in the journal PLoS ONE suggests that America's drinking water contaminated with trace amounts of psychiatric medicines may be linked to the rising rates of autism.
The study, conducted by Michael Thomas, a professor of evolutionary biology at Idaho State University in Pocatello, found that the antidepressants Prozac and Effexor and antiseizure drug Tegratol caused fish exposed to the drugged water to develop gene patterns similar to individuals suffering from autism. The research in this study corroborates studies conducted on rats who also developed autism-like symptoms after exposure to psychiatric drugs.
Study author Thomas says that the researchers were shocked to find reactions at such low doses. The drugs end up in drinking water that co-mingles with treated waste water, which is purified to remove any bacterial risks, but treatments do not yet exist to remove concentrations of drugs. Pregnant women drink the water and may be poisoning their unborn children.
Many possible culprits have been linked to autism, a disorder that continues to rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism spectrum disorders rose 23 percent between 2006 and 2008 among 8-year olds. Other possible triggers of the disease include pesticide exposure, poor diets and lack of omega fatty acids, and even exposure to certain vaccines—although that theory was recently disproved. Autism can range from mild to severe and can include symptoms such as difficulty communicating, repetitive behavioral patterns, and developmental and social impairment.
Overall use of psychiatric medications among adults grew 22 percent between 2001 and 2010—an industry valued at more than $30 billion is sales of drugs aimed at treating depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and disorders like ADHD.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger