CHICAGO (CBS) — Two boys were born through a sperm donor, both were diagnosed with autism, and their mother eventually went on to learn something shocking.
The sperm donor is now linked to even more children with autism and other disabilities.
In her first TV interview, the children’s mother spoke to CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot about her plea for change.
Danielle Rizzo’s face lights up when she talks about her two boys. She calls them “my life.”
“I’ve always wanted children, and I do everything for and with my kids,” she said.
Rizzo gave birth to her first son in September of 2011 through a sperm donor, known as Donor H898. Fourteen months later, her second son was born, using the same sperm, from Idant Laboratories in New York City.
“The donor’s medical history – it was clean,” Rizzo said.
About a year after her first son’s birth, she saw changes in his behavior.
“I started to notice him stop looking at me in my eyes; stop waving ‘Hi,’ and ‘Bye,’” Rizzo said.
Her son was diagnosed with autism. Then, her second son received the same diagnosis.
Determined to get therapy for her children, Rizzo searched the internet. She was shocked when she found information linking Donor H898 to at least a dozen cases around the world where children were born with autism or other disabilities.
Rizzo found at least four sperm banks were selling the donor’s sperm.
“Now that there’s this donor’s sperm at so many sperm banks, who knows how many children are out there?” she said.
She also learned from other mothers that the donor himself did not speak until after age 3.
“I learned he was diagnosed with ADHD,” Rizzo said.
Rizzo spent a year calling every sperm bank.
“None of them would do anything,” she said.
Rizzo did more research. She found a geneticist who would listen.
“This seemed like the perfect experiment to study autism in genes,” Rizzo said.
She is now working to get more families who used the same donor to give DNA or saliva samples for research. Rizzo also wants to see genetic testing become mandatory at all sperm banks.
“There really needs to be regulation and oversight in this industry and that’s why I’m coming forward,” Rizzo said. “This needs to change.”
The Food and Drug Administration requires donor sperm to be tested for sexually-transmitted diseases. Some sperm banks also do genetic testing.
Rizzo sued Idant Laboratories and accepted a judgment. Idant went out of business.
CBS 2’s Le Mignot called Idant’s parent company and had not heard back as of early Wednesday evening.
Those interested in the study being done for the families who received sperm from donor H898 can go to this website, DonorSiblingRegistry.com.
A friend of Rizzo’s has also set up a GoFundMe page to defray the costs of therapy for her boys.