03/21/2013 02:19 am ET Updated May 20, 2013

CDC: One in Every 50 Children Has Autism

Today the CDC announced a 72 percent increase in the diagnosis of autism over the past four years. One of every 50 children aged 6 years to 17 years has an autism spectrum diagnosis.

Ten years ago, the number was 1 in 150.

The previous two decades saw a 600 percent increase in autism diagnosis, and experts have said that 200 percent of that could be attributed to better diagnosis and more awareness of autism, but the other 400 percent was caused by changes in genetics and environmental impact on genetics.

• The rise in autism parallels the rise of the chemical age after World War II and the use of untested chemicals in manufacturing, our food supply, house cleaning products, and our personal grooming products.

• It is no longer a leap to say we can prevent autism. Even mainstream medicine recognizes that the environment affects genetics. The science of epigenetics -- "on top of genes" -- studies what changes gene expression or what causes certain genes to turn on or off.

• At Stanford University, 192 pairs of identical twins were studied in which one twin was autistic and one was not. Scientists found that genetics accounted for 38 percent of the risk of autism and environmental factors 62 percent.

• Our definition of autism has expanded from a genetic disorder originating in the brain to a possible interaction of immune and neuro-inflammatory disorders with genetics. Developing nervous and immune systems -- before and after birth -- are vulnerable to the thousands of toxins that surround us.

• Of the more than 80,000 chemicals in use today, only 3,000 have been tested for their harmful effects.

• The NIH has begun The National Children's Study, a $6.5 billion study of a generation -- a 21 year long study of 100,000 children to determine how the environment affects development from before birth to adulthood. We cannot let an entire generation be at risk. We have to do something now.

April is Autism Awareness Month.

Jay Gordon, MD is the author of Preventing Autism: What You Can Do to Protect Your Children Before and After Birth. For more by Jay Gordon, MD, click here.

For more on autism, click here.