The Alleged “Autism Epidemic”
If you have been watching Oprah or Jenny McCarthy’s various efforts or those of other anti-vaccinationist fear mongers, this term crops up very often. It is absolutely true that the number of autism diagnoses being made is on the rise and climbing steadily. The cause of this, however, is a hotly debated topic in the medical literature. It may be due to a real increase in autism rates, it may be due to a broadening of the definition of autism and an increase in surveillance, or some mix of both.
Various people and groups are quick to latch on to the rising number and point fingers of blame at toxins in our environment or vaccines or whatever else they want to arbitrarily attribute it to. Misinformation is uncritically flung about, statistics are abused, credulity abounds.
Here is a recent article by the Yale neurologist Steven Novella who has kept a watchful eye on this topic. He does a good job of summarizing the real scientific debate on this issue and separating it from the media-driven pseudoscience.