November 14, 2005
1.5 million children are affected by autism in the United States, but nobody is certain exactly where it comes from.
Autism is defined as a developmental disability that by age three will effect children's non-verbal and verbal communication.
But, the question that has yet to be answered is how these seemingly perfect children come down with such a debilitating disorder?
Dr. Sue Anderson said years of population studies have shown that it's in their genes.
"There seems to be a genetic component. We know there are some families in which more than one child is affected or first degree relatives are affected," said Dr. Anderson, of the Kluge Children's Hospital.
The President of the Virginia Chapter of the National Autism Association said it's absurd to think that this disorder is only caused by genes.
"There is no way for there to be a genetic epidemic, it's just impossible because it takes too many generations for there to be a jump from 1 in 20,000 kids to 1 in 166 kids today having Autism," said Kathy Young.
That number includes her own daughter, Anna. At 15 months old she started showing the signs of Autism.
"At three [years old] this is when she was kind of the sickest. [She] started withdrawing, started isolating herself. She started doing repetitive behaviors like opening and closing doors," said Young.
Young attributes her daughters Autism to something environmental - mercury poisoning. Thimerasol, which is a mercury mixture, was put in children's vaccines so they can be inexpensively mass produced and during a 4 year period the number of Thimerasol filled vaccines increased from 8 to 20.
"1989 to 1992 was when we started to get three times as much mercury as you were getting in the years before," said Dr. Kyle Van Dyke, a Pediatrician.
More scientific evidence based research has been collected and those studies suggest Autism is caused by a combination of the two.
"The research that we're seeing now would seem to indicate that Autism is a disease characterized by a genetic pre-disposition with an environmental insult," said Dr. Van Dyke.
Like his son, Ryan, it is thought that some children are born with a pre-disposition for not being able to get rid of toxins in their body - and all it took was a shot filled with mercury to act as a trigger.
Parents and physicians alike, all agree there needs to be more research done to find the true culprit. But there have been changes made in the meantime. By Congress' recommendation in 1999, Thimerasol was taken out of children's vaccines. Currently, there are several lawsuits pending regarding the government's knowledge of Thimerasol's side effects.
What Young wants isn't a fight, she just wants the truth.
"I truly just want it to come out, I want it to stop so that we can get treatment for our child and so no other family has to go through this," said Young.
Thimerasol continues to be put vaccines including flu shots. A recent California study shows the number of children being diagnosed with Autism has declined in recent years.