Hat tip to a blog I regularly read, If I were in your shoes..., who made this link available a few days back.
I just couldn't stop thinking about it.
Could the increase in Autism have something to do with the mainstreaming and increase of Prenatal Ultrasound use?
In May 2006, figures from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed what too many parents and educators already knew: The incidence of autism is high, making it an "urgent public health issue," according to Dr. Jose Cordero, director of the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. Only 12 years ago autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was so rare that it occurred in just one in 10,000 births.(1) Today ASD, which is characterized by a range of learning and social impairments, now occurs in one in 166 children (2)—with no sign of leveling off.
The steep increase in autism goes beyond the US: It is a global phenomenon, occurring in industrialized nations around the world. In the UK, teachers report one in 86 primary school children has special needs related to ASD.(3)
The cause of autism has been pinned on everything from "emotionally remote" mothers (since discredited) to vaccines, genetics, immunological disorders, environmental toxins and maternal infections. Today most researchers theorize that autism is caused by a complex interplay of genetics and environmental triggers. A far simpler possibility worthy of investigation is the pervasive use of prenatal ultrasound, which can cause potentially dangerous thermal effects.
Health practitioners involved in prenatal care have reason to be concerned about the use of ultrasound. Although proponents point out that ultrasound has been used in obstetrics for 50 years and early studies indicated it was safe for both mother and child, enough research has implicated it in neurodevelopmental disorders to warrant serious attention.
At a 1982 World Health Organization (WHO) meeting sponsored by the International Radiation Protection Association (IRPA) and other organizations, an international group of experts reported that "[t]here are several frequently quoted studies that claim to show that exposure to ultrasound in utero does not cause any significant abnormalities in the offspring. …However, these studies can be criticized on several grounds, including the lack of a control population and/or inadequate sample size, and exposure after the period of major organogenesis; this invalidates their conclusions…."(4)
Early studies showed that subtle effects of neurological damage linked to ultrasound were implicated by an increased incidence in left-handedness in boys (a marker for brain problems when not hereditary) and speech delays.(5) Then in August 2006, Pasko Rakic, chair of Yale School of Medicine's Department of Neurobiology, announced the results of a study in which pregnant mice underwent various durations of ultrasound.(6) The brains of the offspring showed damage consistent with that found in the brains of people with autism. The research, funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, also implicated ultrasound in neurodevelopmental problems in children, such as dyslexia, epilepsy, mental retardation and schizophrenia, and showed that damage to brain cells increased with longer exposures.(7)
Dr. Rakic's study, which expanded on prior research with similar results in 2004 (8), is just one of many animal experiments and human studies conducted over the years indicating that prenatal ultrasound can be harmful to babies. While some questions remain unanswered, based on available information, health practitioners must seriously consider the possible consequences of both routine and diagnostic use of ultrasound, as well as electronic fetal heart monitors, which may be neither non-invasive nor safe. If pregnant women knew all the facts, would they choose to expose their unborn children to a technology that—despite its increasingly entrenched position in modern obstetrics—has little or no proven benefit?