When the mercury-based preservative thimerosol was slowly removed from childhood vaccines it was assumed that the astonishing rates of autism would decline. Autism is a brain abnormalty that makes children socially awkward if not totally withdrawn.

For years it was suspected that mercury toxicity was behind cases of autism, estimated to occur in one of every 88 children (11.3 per 1,000 children).

But now the Centers for Disesase Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the cases of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have jumped to one in 68 (14.7 per 1,000 children) – that represents an increase of 30 percent.

AutismbrainThe eight years old is used as the benchmark because that is the average age when autism is diagnosed, though it can be diagnosed as early as age two. The earlier the intervention, the earlier a child can receive special education geared to their disability.

One could assume that maybe we are getting better at detecting autism, but actually the CDC says the criteria to diagnose the disorder has not changed. And those numbers appear to be on the rise over the last decade. Especially troubling is the higher rate of autism in children with average or above average intelligence which has increased from 30 percent to now 50 percent.

Obviously there needs to be immediate research into what in our environment or in the uterus environment might be causing autism. Whatever it is, it is clearly pervasive.

The new research was conducted by the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities and is published in the March 28 CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Researchers used data gathered in 2010 from 11 sites which are part of the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network (ADDM).

The rates of autism also appear to vary by sex and ethnicity. For example, boys are more likely to be affected by autism at a rate almost five times higher than girls. Medscape reports that one in 42 boys is affected compared to one in 189 girls. Also, caucasian children have higher rates of ASD than minority children of Hispanic or African-American descent. Almost half of the children diagnosed appear to have a higher IQ compared to one-third of the diagnosis made a decade ago.

Autism rates can range from 5.7 to 21.9 percent of 1,000 children.

Since early intervention is the key to helping these children, the CDC has announced a new program, Birth to 5: Watch me Thrive! It provides parents with the tools they need to mark milestones in motor development, social and language skills making it easier to identify if their child is not marking those milestones.

Thimerosol was used in vaccines such as tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis and hepatitis B vaccines. It has reportedly been removed or reduced to trace amounts with the exception of the inactivated influenza vaccine.