Autism On Rise Environmental Pollution To Blame

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) diagnoses are on the rise, but what accounts for this? It is unknown if the increase is due to greater awareness of the disorder on the part of doctors, a broader definition of the disorder or a genuine increase in cases.

Suspicions about lead, environmental toxins, diet, vaccinations and medications have long been on the minds of parents raising autistic children. Experts claim that exposure in utero may play a role as well.

For years it seemed that the most possible cause was a result of childhood vaccinations. However, according to a study published in 2005 in the “Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine,” autism and vaccinations are in no way linked.

The unfortunate conclusion is that there is still an enormous amount of information about ASDs that is yet to be discovered. In order to help better understand the causes, Dr. Leonard Rappaport, director of the Developmental Medicine Center at Children’s Hospital Boston, is focusing on the genetic underpinnings of the disorder. He believes there is a possibility that genetics may play a role in up to 90% of all ASD cases.

Many scientists believe that ASDs are largely caused by genes. For example, studies have shown that if one identical twin is autistic, it is highly likely that the other twin will be autistic as well. But since the likelihood is not 100%, it is possible that there are other factors at play.

While many scientists believe that down the line, they will be able to discover genes linked to autism, this theory lies sharply in conflict with the recent rise in ASDs. The gene pool is static and as a result, many others believe ASDs must instead be linked to something environmental.

Sadly, since scientists are still far from discovering the true causes, countless parents of autistic children are left wondering if they have exposed their children to something they should not have and whether increased exposure will worsen their case. This is an understandably frustrating situation. And while easier said than done, leads us to the same conclusion that teachers instructing students with learning disabilities inevitably arrive at—they must focus their energy on remediation instead of on discovering the cause.


“Autism on Rise—Environmental Pollution to Blame?” by Jacqueline Stenson

By Emily Banks