Friday, March 30, 2012

Wake Up Call: 1 in 88 Kids With Symptoms of Autism!

Washington Post: Federal study estimates 1 in 88 children has symptoms of autism

[excerpt]"The CDC study surveyed 14 states — including Maryland — for the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders among 8-year-olds in 2008. The prevalence that year of 11.3 cases per 1,000 children was 23 percent higher than in 2006. It was 78 percent higher than in 2002, when the survey began. Autistic children received their diagnosis at age 4 on average — six months earlier than in 2006, but not early enough for optimal therapy, according to many experts.

The survey found large unexplained differences between sexes, among ethnic groups and in states."

Majia Here: I've written quite a bit about autism. My 2005 book on the subject is a comprehensive analysis of how autism emerged as a diagnostic category and how the disorder has been constructed in psychoanalysis, cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and genetics across the 20th century.

I think there is no doubt that part of the increase in autism diagnoses stems from changing understandings of childhood and the medicalization of perceived deviance.

However, that said I also believe that there is a REAL increase in autistic symptoms in children and that increase is a direct function of environmental factors.

For instance, the correlation between aging fathers and autism diagnoses can be explained by damage by ionizing radiation to germ cells.

Ionizing Radiation and Germ Cell Damage: Link to Autism?

Ionizing radiation could also cause autism through other pathways, explained here:

Furthermore, new research has demonstrated that living near a major road or freeway increases likelihood for an autism diagnosis

We also know that many common chemicals found in our everyday products are endocrine disruptors, which have the potential to cause birth defects:

BPA, Round-Up, and phthalates are endocrine disruptors: Round up and birth defects: Is the public being kept in the dark 

Research looking for the role of environment are finding clear evidence, as illustrated in this account of 2 studies emphasizing environmental contributions to autism


Landrigan, Philip J. What causes autism? Exploring the environmental contribution. Current Opinion in Pediatrics: 16 January 2010.
A review of the Landrigan's essay is available here by Steven Higgs:

Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto: Environmental Factors in Autism - Separating Evidence from Conjecture
Dr. Hertz-Picciotto was lead author on the paper, "Rise in Autism and the Role of Age at Diagnosis." The study found the seven- to eight-fold increase in the number of children born in California with autism since 1990 cannot be explained either by changes in how the condition is diagnosed or counted. Published in the January 2009 issue of the journal Epidemiology, results from the study suggest that research should shift from genetics to address the host of chemicals and infectious microbes in the environment that are likely to be found at the root of changes in the neurodevelopment of California's children. A UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute researcher, Hertz-Picciotto concluded 'It's time to start looking for the environmental culprits responsible for the remarkable.

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