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The Birth of the Autism Epidemic, 1988? David Kirby on Huffington Post

1988 Please read and comment at Huffington Post HERE.

By David Kirby

If it seems like most of the people you know with autism are 22 or younger, that's because most people diagnosed with autism were born after 1987. A recent US EPA study has found a distinct "changepoint" year - or spike - in autism in California and elsewhere and concludes that it would be "prudent to assume that at least some portion of this increase is real and results from environmental factors."

"In the Danish, California, and worldwide data sets, we found that an increase in autism disorder cumulative incidence began about (the birth cohort years) 1988-1989," wrote the authors Michael E. Mc Donald and John F. Paul, of the EPA's National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory.

"Although the debate about the nature of increasing autism continues," they added, "the potential for this increase to be real and involve exogenous (external) environmental stressors exists."

But it was the distinct timing in the increase of autism - the birth of an epidemic, as many believe - that was most notable, and which "may help in screening for potential candidate environmental stressors."

"The calculated year was determined to be significant," the EPA scientists said. The rate of increase before 1988 "was significantly different" than the rate after that year (the "postchangepoint," in epidemiology parlance). In California, the rate spiked from 5.7-per-10,000 before the changepoint, to 20.8-per 10,000 in its wake, and the worldwide dataset showed a similar jump (from 6.0 to 24.2). In Denmark, the rise was even more dramatic, though total incidence was only a fraction of that in the US: from 0.6 to 6.6....

Please read and comment at Huffington Post HERE.

David Kirby is the author of the critically acclaimed Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment available now at Amazon.  He is also the author of Evidence of Harm, a contributor to Huffington Post and a contributor to Age of Autism


Elaine Hickey

Mmmh . . . and the law protecting the vaccine industry was passed in 1986, right?

Janet Sheehan

I have one final thought on this topic: when picking a time-line, or "start date" for the epidemic of autism, one must SUBTRACT at least 3 years from the peak on a chart, because that is typically the age a child is diagnosed and shows up in the "system". Maybe David Kirby has already mentioned this? and if he has, I'm sorry to be redundant ...

Mr. T

I thought the Simpsonwood people had this timeline figured out a long time ago.


This has been brought up on this web site by Jake and a few others. It has confussed me to no end. I have had to think long and hard on all this quirky personality stuff/ autism/ aspergers.

Some one here said that they would give anything to have a asperger kid. I too prayed constantly for pretty much the same thing. I prayed so much that I worked myself up so emotionally that I made myself sick. So I know what you mean, I really do. I will pray for your child too Janet - I know what you mean.

In my own family:
My daughter born in 1981 developed Kawasaki's after her fourth DPT shot.
Afterwards she was moody, but at the same time she had lots of friends, and did more than fine in school. She did have a speech problem with the ch sound. She stuck her tongue way out to say it. The speech teachers pounced on her and put her in speech class. My daughter hated it and worked on her problem to get out of the class. She could however express herself very well - she was one of the top seven students graduating from a very large class. She has two degrees, one in nursing. She is successful at keeping a job, she works with mental/behavioral problems in a hospital setting.

But she is so depressed and moody, people gets on her nerves. She is spit fire and speaks her mind sooooo she has to take an antidepressant. She also takes ambien every night to sleep, she has to take Ultram and Ibuprophen 4-8 times a day for muscle pain,she has acid reflux so she sleeps with a bunch of pillows, She has high SED rates. She is smart but she is quirky. Since she was a small child she has had a pillow that she STILL has and even at age 28 carries with her! Now I do not know about you, but I can not imagine carrying anything around with me I had as a child stopping that at even the AGE OF 10?? She makes me recover that pillow every so often and she goes through all my material (I sew a great deal) and she decides always on a soft knit type material. She thinks it smells great and puts it under my nose all the time. She is not married, and I have figured out that her many friends are not lasting friendships and many take advantage of her. She is smart enough to know it and removes herself emotionally from them very quickly. Two weeks ago she brought home a 8 month old pit bull mix (huge animal)to help out the dog's owner- she was a woman that my daughter works with - and had this thing in an apartment with her three kids. I could have died!!! We have a farm with cows, calves, geese, sheep - we are very picky on the dog we have - we have a Australian cattle dog because it is suppose to guard, herd, and protect this stuff. The pitbull stayed a week before things worked out and my daughter took the dog back.
Now I am beginning to think she could be Aspergers on some scale?!!

On the other hand - my son really is dignosed with Aspergers-- NOW. However - he did not talk till he was in the third grade. He was full blown autism untill about the second grade when he stopped the spinning around,stopped watching wheels and tires, stopped trying to lay down in the road so a tire could run over him -(he wanted to feel the wheel)!!! HE stopped running off from his teachers, his teachers had to stop carrying him back from the swings while he kicked and screames, the teachers stopped losing him! He was then dignosed with PDD-NOS and stayed that way until high school and when he finally put on anti-epliptic medicine he was dignosed with Aspergers. He does has epilespy.

So here we are with one I believe is a truly quirky and maybe she too could be considered Asperger that was missed and then my son and there is no way he could have been missed - even now. Although he is going to a small community college,and drives.

When we are talking about a brain injury does it matter? I mean sure we rather have a mild brain injury compared to a severe brain injury. But a brain injury on any scale should not be happening.

These people trying to say we are just paying more attention to things that always be are looking for excuses. And WE are all considering their foolish thinking all the while an auto-immune disease takes humanity bit by bit.


Interesting analysis, but I am not ready to completely accept this timeline. I have seen other timelines where the big spike in environmental insult(s) -- leading to autism -- would have started in 1990/1991. I think there is some room for interpretation here. I would be careful not to get too hooked into any one precise timeline. I don't think the necessary research has been done to pinpoint a precise timeline - yet.

John Stone

Hi Lorene

Please also note my report on CHS about the UK figures:


Janet Sheehan

Hi Lorene-

you're right- it may be a different condition altogether- maybe we should use a different name like "Autistic Enterocolitis" or even what Brighton Collaboration called "Measles-Induced Neural Autism Syndrome" or "Vaccine Associated Measles Pan-encephalitis".

What I wouldn't give to have my son JUST have Asperger's Syndrome.

And to further complicate epidemiology- the lumping in of Asperger's into the category of the spectrum of autism, show the number of indivuals affected could be *increasing* when in fact it may very well be decreasing due to the removal of most (not all!) of the mercury from the childhood immunization schedule.

So many things to consider...but on a final note I would add that my son, like many others, cannot even be educated in a regular classroom- his diagnosis would not have been "missed", unless the teacher is like someone who can drive right be a train wreck on the side of the road...

Lorene Amet

Hi Janet

"Sure, many of us knew "quirky" individuals- very smart, socially aloof, maybe didn't talk until they were 4..."

I was not including these necessarily, adults with Asperger can be a lot more affected than this, essentially unemployed, depressed, suicidal, isolated with broken relationships or not at all. Many of them have had very significant problems in school and have been excluded. The point was that we have an adult population out there and we need to know a lot more about their longitudinal characteristics.

In addition, perhaps you can go back to my initial post, I stated clearly that there are others on the spectrum who are a lot more affected in their health and function and these individual constitute the true increase, almost certainly so. These are the kids who were not commonly seen 30 years ago.

In any case, in order to start talking about sub-groups, in order to define the ASD population at large, we need to define individuals, medically, clinically, behaviorally and developmentally.

I strongly believe there are very different issues going on in ASD/AS, a fixed population with Asperger and a growing number of regressive autism, who are sick, and happen to have a diagnosis of autism but have a different condition all together.

This would explain a lot, including why professionals, parents and asperger people strongly disagree on this all. Everyone sees their own truth, a truth for them, yes, but not one that is universal.

Teresa Conrick

Excellent article, David. These facts speak volumes and give much ammo to having pertinent research and treatments be investigated. Gene research is not effective and will not stop the increasing cases nor alleviate the pain and suffering of those affected. When will our government, either individuals or agencies, investigate and do something! Thank you, DK!

kathy blanco

I have two kids with autism, my son born n 81 and daughter born in 87 (two girls inbetween, no autism). I believe that this epidemic was initated by biological agents like lyme or XMRV, and mothers were infected in the seventies (which fits the lyme Connecticut scenario), and or were contaminated by their vaccines by SV-40 or XMRV or any other unknown virus, and were having babies by this time. Vaccines in excess would crowd out the already busy B and T Cell lymphocytes, and could wake up the virus. Mercury would cause a collapse of immune function to handle the viruses, and whala, and epidemic. Of course around the same time, we introduced HFCS, MSG and such in our food supply.

Dr Michael Breneman

I find it amazing that the CDC considers pregnant women and children an "at risk" population and yet demands mercury laden vaccines. Indeed, this is the same "at risk" group that are warned not to eat tuna due to mercury contamination.

This week schools in Missouri and Maryland were evacuated due to a broken barometer which leaked a "trace" amount of mercury and kids passing a small container around a classroom. They will be closed until hazardous waste teams can decontaminate them!
At the same time our new "green" light bulbs also contain mercury. I was shocked to see the instructions for cleaning up a broken bulb. Evacuate humans and pets,immediately get a mask on,turn off furnace and ventilation fans. Utilize duct tape to pick up fragments and fine powder. Place in a sealable bag. Use a shop vac to remove remaining contaminants and remove bag from vacuum and seal in bag. Remove to a hazardous waste site.
Holy cow! GREEN?!
Unfortunately, very few people realize the danger involved with these bulbs. I know this site will help spread the word. Best wishes. Dr Michael Breneman

Janet Sheehan

I think you are following a tangent that may not be relevant. Sure, many of us knew "quirky" individuals- very smart, socially aloof, maybe didn't talk until they were 4...
and that is a separate argument, whether or not Asperger's and Autism should even be lumped together...
but in my case, and many others, we are not talking about anyone who would have been "missed" by the system. He cannot function. We are talking about perfectly normal toddlers who go on to completely lose developmental skills, stop talking, have profuse diarrhea, bang their heads against walls, poke their eyes with their fingers, bite at their skin, spin in circles, scream for hours at a time, stay up for the entire night, etc. - AFTER THEIR MMR.
We are talking about medical symptoms that earn the diagnosis of autism, yet many can be fixed using biomedical approaches. My child with autism would have never received a diagnosis of Asperger's years ago.


I also wanted to add that in my son's school there are two classes- autism 1 and autism 2. The autism 1 class has children ages 5 - 9. The autism 2 class has children 11 and 12 years old. The differences in thess two classes is astounding. The autism 1 class kids are mildly affected. The kids of the 1990's in the autism 2 class are all severly affected. When I walked into the autism 1 class the children were sitting around a table discussing video games. Walk into the autism 2 class and you will find lots of echolala and reading the dictionary but never peers talking to each other. This speaks volumes to me.

Janet Sheehan

This article has some teeth to it. Hope it finally sinks in to certain regulatory agencies. love how David Kirby calmly, rationally, an logically considers all the angles. I have always suspected retroviral particles to be the culprit, but assumed it was the ALV. Every child with autism should be tested for antibodies to HERV-K RIGHT NOW!!!!

Lorene Amet

If it seems like most of the people you know with autism are 22 or younger, that's because most people diagnosed with autism were born after 1987.

The adults with autism I know of have high functioning autism or Asperger. There are no official statistics on the prevalence of AS in adults. It is not very clear what is the proportion in children either. There are centers in the UK that provide access to diagnosis for adults and various support services. In Liverpool, the reports are that in a population of 460,000, a total of 460 adults have been newly diagnosed over the last 5 years. The referrals are very high, 24 this week and 18 last week. It suggests that at least 1;1000 of the adult population has a diagnosis of Asperger. These individuals would have been diagnosed as ASD/AS if they were children today. So, we can say for sure there is a proportion of today's ASD children that was there before but is only being accounted for because of today's awareness of the condition.

But the questions much more relate to regressive autism, to the type of autism that comes with much more affected skills and numerous health problems. These are the individuals that constitute a true increase.

Questions: How were today's Asperger adults presenting when they were children? Health, schooling, behavior, development, communication?

What is the true proportion of children with Asperger? Is that fixed (i.e. essentially genetic) or not?

The answer must include a much more detailed characterization of autism- sub-phenotypes- subgroups is what we have to address and we have the tools to do this.

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