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By Dave Tombers

April was Autism Awareness Month, and despite the strides made in diagnosing and treating those who suffer from the life-altering affliction, a staggering number of families are still searching for answers to the cause.

The Centers for Disease Control describes autism spectrum disorders, or ASDs, as a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges.

ASDs, first identified in the 1940s, generally are diseases affecting brain development.

People with ASDs share some similar symptoms, such as problems with social interaction. But there are differences, such as when the symptoms start, how severe they are and the exact nature of the symptoms.

ASDs can include “autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified and Asperger syndrome.”

The CDC reports the rate of autism in children has increased from one in 150 to one in 88 in the United States. This represents an increase of 78 percent since 2002. The estimates are based on surveillance reports from the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network.

“ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances,” according to the website Autismspeaks.org.

The disorder affects five times more boys than girls.

The CDC estimates that about one in 45 boys has an autism spectrum disorder while the rate among girls is one in 252. Utah has the highest figures at one in 47, and there are alarming increases among black and Hispanic children.

An Internet search for the cause of autism points in every direction, except when it comes to thimerosal, a phased out mercury-containing preservative in many childhood vaccinations.

Once considered a potential cause of the neurological disorder, most doctors, government entities and pharmacies now dispute thimerosal has any connection. At least one report released by the CDC claims there are no medical studies that show a link between autism and childhood vaccines.

Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., isn’t buying it.

Burton has been instrumental over the past decade in leading the charge in Congress to support autism research.

The congressman’s grandson is autistic, and he knows all too well the impact the disease has on a family.

Burton writes: “When you have no idea what is causing a disease, policymakers and scientists should never be afraid to investigate any plausible theory.”

Burton is urging lawmakers to do more to help the millions of American’s affected by autism.

“Autism has no cure, and it is not a life-threatening disease. That means that the autistic children of today will be the autistic adults and autistic seniors of tomorrow.

“Our nation is ill-prepared to deal with the complex challenges posed by a generation of autistic individuals.”

More than one study claims a connection between mercury and autism.

In the same year the feds released data acknowledging a drastic increase in the prevalence of autism in American children, a 2011 study in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health found a “statistically significant relationship” between mercury and autism.

According to the study, “the higher the proportion of children receiving recommended vaccines, the higher was the prevalence of autism.”

Another 2011 study in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry questioned more than just thimerosal in vaccines but aluminum as well.

According to the report, the number of children from countries with the highest rates of ASDs appear to also have the highest exposure to aluminum in vaccines.

However, the medical community steers away from vaccines as a cause and instead continues to question what is causing the terrible disorder.

“I think most doctors discredit mercury in vaccines as a cause of autism because mercury has been discontinued,” former congressman and retired physician Dave Weldon told WND.

“Rates of autism should have started dropping in about 2006 if mercury was the culprit.”

Weldon explained his chief concern is the merry-go-round of workers involved in research on vaccinations.

“You’d have scientists working for the CDC, who then move over and work for the NIH, and then move to academia, and then a pharmaceutical company and then back to the CDC again,” he said.

Last year, an article in the British Journal of Medicine declared the 1998 study by Andrew Wakefield, which originally found an autism-mercury link, an “elaborate fraud.”

Wakefield doesn’t see it that way. He stands by his study and cites a number of other studies in five separate countries that have replicated his findings.

On his website, Wakefield says: “I continue to fully support more independent research to determine if environmental triggers, including vaccines, are causing autism and other developmental problems.”

Meanwhile, many in the medical community point to a variety of suspected areas of ASD causation, from genetics, to pesticides, to certain other pharmaceuticals (not childhood vaccines) and even the age or weight of parents when their children are conceived.

Prominent autism activist and actress Jenny McCarthy is among those not convinced by the “quit looking at mercury” mantra. Donald Trump has also weighed in on the issue.

Trump blasted a recent study in the medical journal Pediatrics that blames obese mothers for autism, calling the findings “ridiculous.”

Trump told Fox News most doctors disagree with the position he takes on autism being linked to childhood vaccines, but to that he says, “I couldn’t care less.”

Dr. Mary Ann Block of Texas may not have all the answers as to what causes autism,, but she’s not waiting for the government to provide solutions. Block is among those working to prevent autism in the future and to help autistic children  live better.

Block told WND she’s had success in treating people with autism at her Texas clinic and that she’s helped “many children return to normal.”

In an email to WND, Block questions government studies and statistics that discredit mercury and aluminum, while pointing to studies from other countries that do see a link to childhood vaccines.

“A German study released in September of 2011 showed that vaccinated children have at least two to five times more diseases and disorders than unvaccinated children,” she said.

Many cringe when they hear about parents skipping vaccines for their children, yet Block has found the dangers to be unmistakable.

She explains there is more to a vaccine than just the active ingredients, and a close look at labels should make one shudder.

“Thimerosal, a mercury derivative, is still found in many vaccines in trace amounts,” she told WND.

Propylene glycol, or antifreeze; phenol, a disinfectant dye; formaldehyde, a carcinogenic preservative; aluminum hydroxide; aluminum phosphate; and even human aborted fetal tissue are among a long list of other chemicals Block cited.

“Why would anyone think it’s OK, much less safe, to inject these toxic substances into anybody, especially infants,” she asked.

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