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New Study Links Pesticides to Autism Rates

A new study suggests a link between the use of pesticides and autism.

File Photo
File Photo
By Brian Slupski

A new study found that living near agricultural land where pesticides are applied is correlated to a much greater chance of having children with autism.

Newsweek reported that the University of California Davis study found that women were 60 percent more likely to have a child with autism or developmental delays. The study found that the associations were stronger when exposure happened in the second and third trimesters of women's pregnancies.

The study focused on California, the top agricultural state in the nation. Statewide California uses about 200 million pounds of active pesticides.

"This study validates the results of earlier research that has reported associations between having a child with autism and prenatal exposure to agricultural chemicals in California," lead study author Janie F. Shelton, a UC Davis graduate student who now consults with the United Nations, stated in a press release. "While we still must investigate whether certain sub-groups are more vulnerable to exposures to these compounds than others, the message is very clear: Women who are pregnant should take special care to avoid contact with agricultural chemicals whenever possible."

Specifically, the study found that exposure to organophosphates at some point during a pregnancy increased risk of autism spectrum disorder with the greatest risk coming in the third trimester. The study also found that mothers living near pyrethroid insecticide applications just prior to conception or during the third trimester were at greater risk for autism spectrum disorder or to have a child that was developmentally delayed.

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The study also found a greater risk of developmental delay for children whose mother's were exposed to carbamate during their pregnancy, but no specific vulnerable period was identified, the study published in Environmental Health Perspectives states.

"We mapped where our study participants' lived during pregnancy and around the time of birth. In California, pesticide applicators must report what they're applying, where they're applying it, dates when the applications were made and how much was applied," principal investigator Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a MIND Institute researcher and professor and vice chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences at UC Davis stated.

"What we saw were several classes of pesticides more commonly applied near residences of mothers whose children developed autism or had delayed cognitive or other skills," he stated.

Of the 1,000 study participants, about one-third lived within 1.25 to 1.75 kilometers to commercial pesticide application sites. The study found that "Some associations were greater among mothers living closer to application sites and lower as residential proximity to the application sites decreased."

Click here to read the study.
Mr. Gordon Hendricks June 25, 2014 at 09:54 AM
I was just reading an even more intriguing Patch article entitled: New Study Links Pesticides to Dead Pests.
Don Leland June 25, 2014 at 04:18 PM
If we look at the full article, rather than just the "bites" of this article, we see that this study is specifically around agricultural pesticide application. I haven't read up on statistics placing autistic children, but surely they aren't all centered around agricultural communities...so it leads me think that while exposure to massive amounts of pesticides (such as in this agricultural study) appears to now be linked to autism, it is not the only one. If you want more about pesticides in a structural pest control situation - which is what the majority of us encounter around our homes - you can read more on our blog at http://kirkland.patch.com/blogs/no-pests?content_subdomain=kirkland
Stretch June 26, 2014 at 05:29 AM
Looks like poison chemicals are all up in your children these days.
Jersey Girl June 26, 2014 at 03:48 PM
Though the study, as with most studies, is not conclusive, the more information we gather concerning this disorder can only be helpful. People with autism are first and foremost people. Since we care about our world and those living in it, scientific information is helpful.
Don Leland June 30, 2014 at 04:12 PM
For those still interested in this, the NPMA has issued a response to the research: http://www.pctonline.com/NPMA-responds-pesticide-exposure-autism-study.aspx

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