Sociological Environmental Causes are Insufficient to Explain Autism Changepoints of Incidence

Issues Law Med. 2015 Spring;30(1):25-46.


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently published a study analyzing time trends in the cumulative incidence of autistic disorder (AD) in the U.S., Denmark, and worldwide. A birth year changepoint (CP) around 1988 was identified. It has been argued that the epidemic rise in autism over the past three decades is partly due to a combination of sociologic factors along with the potential contribution of thimerosal containing vaccines. Our work conducted an expanded analysis of AD changepoints in CA and U.S., and determined whether changepoints in time trends of AD rates temporally coincide with changepoints for the proposed causative sociologic and environmental factors. Birth year changepoints were identified for 1980.9 [95% CI, 1978.6-1983.1], 1988.4 [95% CI, 1987.8-1989.0] and 1995.6 [95% CI, 1994.6-1996.6] for CA and U.S. data, confirming and expanding the EPA results. AD birth year changepoints significantly precede the changepoints calculated for indicators of increased social awareness of AD. Furthermore, the 1981 and 1996 AD birth year changepoints don't coincide with any predicted changepoints based on altered thimerosal content in vaccines nor on revised editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Education, Special / economics
  • Financing, Government
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical / analysis
  • Publishing
  • Thimerosal / analysis
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Vaccines / chemistry


  • Preservatives, Pharmaceutical
  • Vaccines
  • Thimerosal