Steven Higgs had a great article about the reports. I have posted highlights
- On Oct. 2, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told the press and about 50 members of the autism community that an unreleased Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study shows the incidence of 8-year-olds born in 1996 with ASDs is 1 in 100. The agency's last two studies of children born in 1992 and 1994 put the chance at 1 in 150.
- On Oct. 5, the journal Pediatrics published the results of HHS's Maternal and Child Health Bureau's "2007 National Survey of Children's Health," which showed 1 in 91 children between the ages of 3 and 17 had autism.
- The National Survey of Children's Health data was drawn from telephone surveys of 78,000 parents who said their children had been diagnosed and still have ASDs. While its methodology has been criticized, the results aren't too far out of range of other recent reports.
- As Huffington Post blogger David Kirby observed in his post of Oct. 9, the mainstream media's response to the new CDC data has been "rather nonchalant." But the implications of the new incidence measures are anything but mundane. They are "startling," as Kirby, author of the best-selling book Evidence of Harm: Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic: A Medical Controversy, says.
- In an Oct. 5 piece in Age of Autism, Kirby described Sebelius's call to the autism community as a "hastily arranged telephone 'visit,'" during which she announced that the "prevalence of autism might be even higher than previously thought." The secretary then hedged a bit -- "We don't know if it has gone up, and we are hoping to unlock these mysteries." -- declared autism an "urgent public health challenge" and "promptly ended her visit," Kirby continued.
- Dr. Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health and chair of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, provided more detail. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, he sounded a cautionary note similar to Sebelius's. "It is not entirely clear what (the) increase is due to," he said. "It is not clear more children are affected rather than just changes in our ability to detect." Another interview with an AP medical writer was more sobering. "The concern here is that buried in these numbers is a true increase," Insel said. "We're going to have to think very hard about what we're going to do for the 1 in 100."
- "Honestly, if someone was going to give a talk on the etiology or causes of autism, it would be entirely speculative,” according to Dr. Christopher McDougle, an autism researcher and chair of the psychiatry department at the Indiana University School of Medicine. “There’s nothing that’s known.” A growing number of researchers believe that autism is triggered in genetically predisposed individuals by an "environmental hit," McDougle said.
- David Kirby feels Federal health officials who led the AP to report, “Greater awareness, broader definitions and spotting autism in younger children may explain some of the increase,” are misguided, he argued. “Some have called it ‘good news’ that doctors are now so proficient at diagnosing the milder forms of ASD,” Kirby wrote in the Huffington Post. “… Many will call me an alarmist, but I believe that 1-in-60 boys with an autism spectrum disorder is a national crisis -- and not just a reassuring confirmation of how things have always been.”
- Kirby added that to buy that argument is to accept the conclusion that 1-in-60 American males, young and old, have an ASD. “Do you really believe that 1 in 60 American men are autistic?” he asked.
- For Kirby, the parallel rise in environmental pollution and autism rates are related. And federal officials need to shift their focus accordingly. “They don't seem to feel that rising levels of environmental toxic exposures in genetically susceptible children might also be at play here,” he wrote in the Huffington Post. “I personally believe that toxins like mercury can trigger ASD in children. These toxic exposures are on the rise, and so is the incidence of ASD.”
To read the entire article visit HERE.
Steven Higgs is a freelance writer in Bloomington, Ind., and editor of The Bloomington Alternative, www.BloomingtonAlternative.com. He can be reached at editor@BloomingtonAlternative.com.
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