Understanding what’s behind the statistics of autism, ADHD, allergies, asthma and other chronic childhood conditions will help you understand that epidemics aren’t genetic.
There is a vast body of medical literature indicating that the increased rates of everything from autism to asthma are due to true increases in disease, not just better diagnosis or better patient capture.
This epidemic is real.
The rates of these disorders are increasing so quickly that the causes cannot be due solely to genes.If a disease or disorder were genetic, it would occur as roughly the same percentage of the population over time.
The environment plays a critical role in modulating gene expression and recent developments in the field of epigenetics tell us that our DNA is being “turned on and off” by our environmental exposures.
“Genetics load the gun, and the environment pulls the trigger.”
A Look Behind the Statistics
A look behind the statistics reflects an epidemic of chronic inflammatory conditions and developmental delays in the U.S. that is staggering and points to the impact of the environment on our health:
- Asthma affects 1 in 8 children, and as many as 1 in 6 African American children. Asthma costs the U.S. $56 billion per year.
- One in 3 American children is either overweight or obese; obesity-related medical costs account for $190 billion or 21% of medical spending in the United States; childhood obesity carries a price tag of $14 billion a year in direct medical costs.
- One in 5 children entering kindergarten carries a mental health diagnosis.
- One in 20 children is diagnosed with pediatric depression. The U.S. spends $83 billion a year on depression.
- It is estimated that at least 10% of American children have ADD/ADHD (one-in-five boys) and 17% are labeled as “learning disabled.” ADHD is estimated to cost the US upwards of $100 billion per year.
- Rates of autism have risen over the last few decades from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 68 children. Autism costs the U.S. $268 billion per year with the potential to reach $1 trillion by 2025. What we pay to manage autism in this country on an annual basis is more money than has been spent on the entire NASA program since its inception in 1971. Autism costs the US more than the combined budgets of the Department of Health and Human Services ($73.7 billion), the Department of Education ($68.6 billion), the Department of Housing and Urban Development ($32.6 billion), and the Department of Agriculture ($21.5 billion).
- Nearly 2.5% of U.S. children may have an allergy to peanuts.
- A study conducted at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found: of > 11 million hospitalization records examined of patients < 20 years old there was a 49% increase from 2000 to 2009 in Crohn’s disease discharges and a 71% increase in ulcerative colitis discharges
What’s more, there are many anecdotal reports of conditions/symptoms that aren’t well tracked also increasing dramatically. Some of these conditions/symptoms include:
- Eosinophilic esophagitis
- Sensory Processing/Integration Disorder
- Behavioral/mood disorders (bipolar/depression/anxiety)
- Thyroid conditions
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Loose stools/diarrhea
- Chronic ear infections, sinus infections, urinary tract infections
- Constipation/going several days without a bowel movement
- Red cheeks/ears after eating
- Self-limiting feeding (e.g., only eating a few white foods)
- Excessive tantruming/defiance
- Chronic mouth breathing/swollen glands
- Delays in walking/talking/crawling
- Obsessive compulsive behaviors/repetitive behaviors/aggressive behaviors
- Eczema, skin rashes
- Sensory issues: Sensitivity/aversion to light, sound, textures
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Sources & References
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American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. 21 percent increase in childhood peanut allergy since 2010: More children have food allergies, including more black children. ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2017 Oct 27.
American Lung Association. Asthma and Children Fact Sheet.
Autism Research Institute. ARI Calls for Immediate Federal Response to New Autism Figures. 2009 Oct.
Autism Research Institute. Recently Released Data from the National Survey of Children’s Health Reports that Autism Now Affects 1% of Children and is More Common Than Children’s Cancer, Diabetes, and AIDS combined. Reuters. 2009 Aug 3.
The Autism Society of America. Facts and Statistics.
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