When my article, “Questions about Prenatal Ultrasound and the Alarming Increase in Autism,” http://www.midwiferytoday.com/articles/ultrasoundrodgers.asp was published in Midwifery Today in 2006, I hoped it would inspire research into whether this ever-more-popular form of diagnostic imaging were responsible for the boom in autism prevalence. Sadly, little has been done to investigate this possibility.
At the time, the U.S. autism prevalence was 1 in 160 — a number I expected would change quickly. It did. Within months the prevalence changed to 1 in 150, then a few years later to 1 in 110 and, most recently, stands at 1 in 88 — seemingly on its way to catching up to the world record holder, South Korea, which reported a 1 in 38 autism prevalence.
Countless studies have been published throughout these years of surging autism numbers, most of which could be interpreted to support the idea that prenatal ultrasound plays a role in causing this neurodevelopmental disorder and have been covered in this blog. A twin study surprised many when it established that genetics were not as important as environment in causing autism. https://carolinerodgers.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/why-genetics-cant-be-the-only-or-even-main-factor-in-sibling-autism-risk/ A California study identified autism clusters and found that highly educated women were much more likely to have children with autism than their less-educated neighbors. https://carolinerodgers.wordpress.com/2009/12/31/moms-to-be-drop-out-of-school-to-avoid-having-autistic-children/ A study of the 78% increase in autism documented between 2002 and 2008 loosely parellels an 80% increase in the number of ultrasound scans women had during these pregnancies. https://carolinerodgers.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/parallels-between-autism-prenatal-ultrasound-increases/ Most recently, a study found an association between obesity and autism — yet although obesity is a problem in the United States, where 1/3 of women are obese, this does not explain South Korea’s prevalence, where fewer than 4% of the population is obese. http://carolinerodgers.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/maternal-obesity-autism-ultrasound-probe-may-be-a-factor/, while South Korea markets itself as Asia’s go-to place for high-tech medicine and would naturally use that form of ultrasound with all pregnancies, as it yields much clearer images.
If prenatal ultrasound is causing autism, eventually the truth will be impossible to hide — yet that never stopped anyone from trying. Recent actions and news releases by the FDA are very interesting. Today U.S. Marshalls, acting upon information from the FDA, seized a batch of contaminated ultrasound gel: http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/Safety/AlertsandNotices/ucm299409.htm
This focuses attention on a topical gel spread instead of the more serious possible threat caused by ultrasound’s acoustic energy exposing developing fetal tissue to heat increases.
Just a month ago, the FDA warned about a range of skin products including lotions, creams and soaps that contain mercury — which should be enough to excite those who still believe that mercury in vaccine preservatives cause autism.
While FDA notices and recalls are important public health actions and to be commended, consumers should not lose sight of the bigger picture when considering what might be causing autism.