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It's safe to vaccinate kids — studies find autism risks are linked to genetics instead

Published: Friday, July 25 2014 6:15 a.m. MDT

Updated: Saturday, July 26 2014 8:12 a.m. MDT

Person receiving a vaccine

Jeffrey Hamilton, Getty Images

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For decades, scientists and doctors have struggled to find out the cause of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Last weekend, a study published in Nature Genetics may bring them closer to the answer.

CNN Health reported that the study looked at Swedish population statistics correlating with autism and found that 52 percent of the risk of developing autism comes from genes, while just 2.6 percent can be attributed to environmental factors.

That's significant because, as Salon reported earlier this month, the autism "blame game" has become dangerous, as some have blamed everything from pesticides to childhood vaccinations for the condition.

"Today’s fad is to blame pesticides, and tomorrow’s could be to blame peanut butter in plastic jars. With each claim will come unwarranted hysterical reactions that are not based on solid scientific findings, but instead by a public hungry for conclusive answers where none yet exist, and a media more than happy to stoke speculation," Dan Arel wrote at Salon. "Claims that haven’t been tested and retested, subjected fully to the rigors of the scientific method and peer review, can have deadly consequences."

While the study still leaves plenty open for interpretation about the role environmental factors can play in a child developing autism, one thing parents should take away is that it's once again safe to vaccinate kids, Dr. Jane C. Hu wrote in Slate this week.

Hu cited a plethora of studies that have ruled vaccinations do not cause autism, and chastised celebrity parents like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Jenny McCarthy for crusading against vaccination.

"Loving parents out there may be dismayed to know that science doesn’t tell us much about how to prevent autism, short of changing your genes," Hu wrote. "But on the upside, it does tell us yet again that we should vaccinate our kids so that they don’t suffer from the diseases we already know how to prevent."

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com, Twitter: ChandraMJohnson

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