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M.I.N.D. You, There Are More Cases of Autism

Autism Bookshelf

There’s been a seven- to eight-fold increase of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) cases in California since 1990.

I’ve suspected that the rise in diagnoses of ASD is linked to many factors, one of them better detection. You, too? Not so, says a new study.

It’s time to start looking for the environmental culprits responsible for the remarkable increase in the rate of autism in CaliforniaWe’re looking at the possible effects of metals, pesticides and infectious agents on neurodevelopment,” said researcher Irva Hertz-Piccoto.

The UC Davis M.I.N.D (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute study took data from 1990 through 2006 in databases of the California Department of Developmental Services, which coordinates services for individuals with specific developmental disorders.

Here’s the lowdown on what they found:

  • The diagnoses of autism by age six in California has increased from fewer than 9 in 10,000 for children born in 1990 to more than 44 in 10,000 for children born in 2000.
  • Age-specific incidence rates increased most steeply for 2- and 3-year-olds.
  • Less than 1/10 of the rise in autism diagnoses can be explained by the inclusion of milder cases of ASD.
  • Only 24% of the cases can be explained away by earlier age at the time of diagnosis.
  • The rise in ASD cases are not linked to a more diverse California, as the disorder affects different ethnic groups at about the same rate.

These are fairly small percentages compared to the size of the increase that we’ve seen in the state, said Hertz-Piccolo.

I agree that the environmental factors must be studied better. Certainly, genetics may play a role. But I suspect that the heavy metals in our environment, building up in mamas’ bodies before we give birth, may affect our offspring along with the gene pool and oft-demonized vaccines.

Though mercury is no longer found in the required child vaccines (or only found at trace levels), it is found in many brands of the flu shot. And we certainly can’t discount the effects of other heavy metals, such as aluminum and other excipients. The always articulate Dr. Sears believes these preservatives should be studied further, while giving parents the freedom of a slower vaccination schedule to ease our worries.

Lucky for me and my little guys, we have a family practitioner who welcomes the vaccine discussion and supports our decision to delay most vaccines.

Because until we narrow down the environmental factors for autism, many parents will take any precaution they deem necessary to easy their worries.  Myself included.

Once again, from Hertz-Picciotto:

Right now, about 10 to 20 times more research dollars are spent on studies of the genetic causes of autism than on environmental ones. We need to even out the funding.

The study is published in the January edition of the journal Epidemiology.


  1. In regards to the mercury that has been removed from the vaccinations: from what i understand, it apparently was there as a preservative. My concern is, since it has been removed, what has replaced it as the preservative?
    Something we’ll be reeling over in a few years?
    Does anyone know?????

    -Concerned Dad

  2. Vijay Owens says:

    The only problem with this theory is that there are many families with 2, 3, 4 children all raised the same way in the same place, and only one is autistic. So while environmental factors may be part of the big picture, some families don’t vaccinate at all (like ours) and live a pretty healthy lifestyle and still have children firmly on the spectrum (as well as children not on the spectrum).

    So I feel like genetics is still a pretty huge part of autism. In some cases autism or autism-like symptoms may be an indicator of a genetic sensitivity to foods and environmental toxins. Or that the “quirks” that run in certain families can combine to create autism when both sides merge. (I think this is what happened in our case.)

    There’s also the confusion between “classic autism” what my daughter has, where you are autistic from birth and there is no regression, and regressive autism which in my opinion is sometimes not actually autism, but vaccine-induced brain damage and/or metabolic dysfunction that gets misdiagnosed as autism. There may be a rise in classical autism as well, particularly in places like CA because people who work with computers often have at least a toe on the spectrum, and put two Aspie’s together…

    But those are just my personal theories based on my reading and talking to people on the spectrum and parents of children on the spectrum, I don’t have any specific studies to cite to back that up.

  3. I just love that you added your 2 cents here, Veej. You’ve definitely made this issue a bigger part in my life, and it is fantastic to hear from someone it hits home for.
    Yes, I have always wondered about families where everything was done the same (and especially in your case, oh-so-healthfully) for more than one child, yet only one become a child with ASD. I certainly do think that it is a case of genetics. But I don’t think that ASD can be explained away by the gene pool. I think genetics, combined with what we as parents come in contact with over years before conception may play a part. And since ASD isn’t selective, it isn’t selective within families, either. Within the same family, genetics plays different roles: as you know, looking at how different your girls look! 😉
    Overall, it is such a huge issue that we *must* get more funding and figure this thing out! We may never find a “cure”, but finding out the whys will help families be more proactive according to exposures to the many environmental elements. Not to mention the genetic engineering future of the world: I won’t even try to touch that topic right now!

    To the “Concerned Dad”: Joe, click on the link for “aluminum and other excipients” in this blog and it will bring you to a page that shows all the extra stuff in vaccines. Generally, aluminum is used as the preservative now. That’s what is worrying me currently and making me shy away from vaccinating my younger son. My older boy was minimally vaccinated, and mow the same pediatrician is so understanding about us holding off on my 10-month-old. We’re just on the page of “Not right now.”
    The other issue with vaccines, of course, is that each one was tested by the manufacturer for safety ALONE. They were not tested as prescribed in the current vaccination schedule. Many “regular” (versus holistic) pediatricians give children multiple shots at once. Can the CDC tell me that 4-6 shots (all preserved with heavy metals) are perfectly safe? Until I feel completely safe in their answer, we’re holding off until my little guy is a bit older.

  4. I blogged about this same study. I agree with Irva Hertz-Picciotto the head researcher behind this study. Just think about all the pesticides, and chemicals in our environment today compared to 1990. A lot has changed and I’m sure it has an affect on our children. I also agree that we need more research to pinpoint exactly what environmental factors are contributing to the rise in autism cases here in California.

  5. Thanks for the post! But I haven’t heard any studies specifically linking the environment and autism. If genetics are really the biggest cause, they should get the most funding. Makes sense, right?


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