If you blinked, you might have missed this week’s announcement that the autism rate has remained at 1 in 68. That’s 1.5 percent of eight year olds born in 2004 and surveyed in 2012 (what’s the hurry, right?). Perhaps because the number hasn’t changed since the last report two years ago, the news didn’t make the splash it sometimes does. Yet it’s just as shocking, not least because it highlights the way the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “manages” the autism epidemic.
Mark Blaxill, my co-author and colleague at AOA and HealthChoice, wrote about this powerfully earlier this week, contrasting the CDC report with evidence he obtained from a whistleblower lawsuit in Utah. The suit was filed by Judith Pinborough-Zimmerman, who was fired in the middle of working on Utah’s autism rate. It suddenly and inexplicably took a dive — raising serious questions about how those numbers are obtained, not just in Utah but around the country.
I asked Mark a few questions to try to get my mind around the significance of these major developments.
Dan: I just thought your analysis of the numbers was a really important look at how this sausage is made. Let me start with this: What would be the right way to do a task like this, to track over time a disease or disorder that’s of public concern, that people think might be increasing, and that they wanted to get an apples-to-apples comparison for over a period of time. In other words, if they wanted to really figure out was going on, what would they do: What would be best practices as they say in business?
Mark: You’d want to start early enough, in time to observe the trend in the epidemic. Yet the first thing that they (the CDC) do is start their surveillance in 1992, which is by all accounts after the inflection point — the autism rates were already starting to get elevated by 1992. We know from the data in Brick, New Jersey, that the difference between the rates in the ‘88 and ‘92 birth cohorts was huge — that was sort of the critical four years when the whole thing turned from zero to about the highest rates ever recorded. (See last slide)
Dan: The EPA has said that 1988 was in fact the inflection point worldwide.
Mark: Exactly, and that inflection point shows up in other places and in other studies. The first two CDC studies were in New Jersey and Georgia. They have the data on Brick Township starting in the 1988 birth year, and Brick is in some of the other New Jersey ADDM surveys. …