Taiwan's High Rate of Autism

I have noticed that in pretty every kindergarten here are at least a couple of children with autism.
I was told today, after having a discussing about one of my students who has autism, that the number of these cases has increased dramatically over the past years.
I learned the the place I work at has several such cases and that the reason for this increase is unknown.

Coincidently, I saw a reportage yesterday, reporting that there are mercury leakages in those new light-bulbs. One search at google recommended right away (mercury poisoning autism).
What do you think? How likely could it be that these new power saving light bulbs are responsible for the increase of autism here in Taiwan?
Could it be that when one of those light bulb ruptures, and the woman living in the place is within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, that this could be causing autism already?

We already started throwing out these bulbs month ago. As they fail, we are replacing them with LEDs. It’s a bit expensive but I think they last longer anyway.

I don’t think there has been any proven link between mercury and autism. Although anecdotally it does seem more prevalent, has a controlled study been done to take out the effect that autism is becoming more recognised in society?

As for the mercury lightbulbs, I blew up one about a year ago (wrong voltage), man I nearly crapped myself seeing that deadly cloud of gas wafting my way! How does things got approved as environmentally conscious products is a complete joke. Opened the windows and doors and stayed out of there for a while.

[quote=“headhonchoII”]I don’t think there has been any proven link between mercury and autism. Although anecdotally it does seem more prevalent, has a controlled study been done to take out the effect that autism is becoming more recognised in society?

As far as I can tell, searching through the google results, you are right. But reading several different opinions on this suggests, that there isn’t much funding for research, since the main culprit for mercury exposure are vaccinations, and not light bulbs. If this is the case, you can argue that there is a strong lobby behind preventing any founded research.

per se per say parsley

per se.

Just thought I’d point it out.

OK, you may continue.

Very interesting NYT article

nytimes.com/2012/08/26/opini … wanted=all

[quote] More recently, William Parker at Duke University has chimed in. He’s not, by training, an autism expert. But his work focuses on the immune system and its role in biology and disease, so he’s particularly qualified to point out the following: the immune system we consider normal is actually an evolutionary aberration.

Some years back, he began comparing wild sewer rats with clean lab rats. They were, in his words, “completely different organisms.” Wild rats tightly controlled inflammation. Not so the lab rats. Why? The wild rodents were rife with parasites. Parasites are famous for limiting inflammation.

Humans also evolved with plenty of parasites. Dr. Parker and many others think that we’re biologically dependent on the immune suppression provided by these hangers-on and that their removal has left us prone to inflammation. “We were willing to put up with hay fever, even some autoimmune disease,” he told me recently. “But autism? That’s it! You’ve got to stop this insanity.” [/quote]

I’ve noticed this as well. Have two friends with kids that are diagnosed autistic. The rate of autism in Taiwan is on the increase, but this is true in almost all of the developed world. And I think as awareness on the symptoms become more well known among the public, the number of cases will increase further.
Related article: topnews.us/content/237863-taiwan … s-clutches

If mercury from vaccines or new lightbulbs were the cause I think we’d see a similar increase in all countries that are adapting these lightbulbs, but apparently the rate of autism changes widely from country to country. So I fail to see the correlation.

When I first landed on the ROC, I never saw a case of autism, or one I’d suspect, anyway. But things have changed a lot now and in the last two years I was there I saw several, taught several, kids with autism. But there are many reasons for this apparent increase, IMO.

Firstly, I think that attitudes have changed a lot. Taiwanese people as a group are more educated, and more accepting of differently abled individuals. There are still a LOT of jerks out there, but attitudes really are getting better. My friends and I used to remark that you never saw a mentally or physically challenged person outside, but now this is common and there are even attempts at building adequate infrastructure for wheel chairs, canes, and service dogs.

Secondly, pertaining to Autism specifically, the diagnostic process has changed and it is not considered to be “a” disorder, but a spectrum of symptoms and severities. This means that more people are diagnosed as autistic in some way. This is good in places where an accurate diagnosis opens doors to better services, and unfortunate where it’s simply a label that a person will be stuck with for the rest of his/her life. But this new spectrum diagnosis is being credited with a marked increase in autism cases all over the world.

Finally, I personally believe that our environment may be partly to blame for a real increase in instances of this disorder. An over controlled, over vaccinated, over modified food source, more chemicals in everything, pollution. It’s not beyond me to believe that this has something to do with it.

In Taiwan, I feel like the practice of buxibans accepting autistic kids is very unfortunate. This is because these kids actually DO need trained teachers and care givers to thrive, but they can truly thrive if they have appropriate teachers and appropriate goals. The buxibans won’t turn them away because money is money. Buxiban teachers usually aren’t even trained in teaching, much less working with/teaching autistic children. It’s always the kids, and their classmates who suffer because someone out there sees dollar signs when he looks at kids.

People having children later.

Spot on. Weak sperm combined with better (over?) diagnosis. Every other explanation is paranoid hippy-dippy nonsense.

Autism is a highly complex condition/diorder and I believe that its “cause” will eventually be determined as a combination of multiple environmental factors all related to the over-abundance of chemicals that we are exposing ourselves to. This includes industrial grade pollution from factories, automobiles and the like and household cleaners, soaps, disinfectants, anti-microbial agents, air freshners, fabric softners etc.

I read a review of the NYT article alleging a relationship between lack of parasites and autism. Did not read the original article. However, the review stated that NYT greatly over-stated the case. Yes, it is being investigated. Yes, there are some interesting results worthy of follow-up. No, they have not definitively established the case that there is a causative link. Not casting aspersions on this particular research but there is quite a bit of bad science and worse reporting on the subject of autism. I really doubt that a single silver bullet exists. More likely, a number of quite ordinary bullets in combination (including more awareness and better diagnosis) are driving the increase.

Spot on. Weak sperm combined with better (over?) diagnosis. Every other explanation is paranoid hippy-dippy nonsense.[/quote]

I know that there are proven links between older parents having offspring with Down Syndrome and sometimes Spina Bifida (though that’s mostly linked to folic acid deficiencies in the mother’s diet–as are other defects such as clefts), but I’m not aware of a link between parental age and Autism. Do you have a source? Just because I’m interested.

There were a slew of stories on older fathers and autism about a month back (well, one Nature article, and then the resulting stories everywhere):

articles.latimes.com/2012/aug/22 … ia20120822


As always, exercise extreme caution when reading popular press accounts of science studies!

When I was doing research on this topic for my book, I serendipitously had an occupational therapist as a student, whom I interviewed for her insights and thoughts on the matter.

As far as I recall, she seemed to think that there was much better diagnosing now as Taiwan was falling more in line with international practice, so that might account for any real or perceived rises in prevalence.

But of course no one can stay for sure.