Exposure to pesticides during pregnancy is associated with 60 to 200 percent more risk for autism in children, shows a study conducted at the University of California. Scientists believe that the connection can be explained by the action of chemical compounds from pesticides to the nervous system. Otherwise, adult brains are protected by environmental chemicals, but in small children, this barrier between blood and brain is not yet fully formed, which increases the risk for brain cells.
Environmental Factor That is Hard to Avoid
Autism presents a much higher risk to children of pregnant women living near agricultural areas treated with pesticides Pregnant women living near agrarian land where pesticides are used have a 60 percent higher chance of having children with autism or other developmental disorders, according to a new study from the University of California.
The study examined three classes of common pesticides: organophosphate, carbamate, and pyrethroid. All three have shown that they have a relationship with disorders from the spectrum of autism or developmental disorders. Organophosphates applied to nearby fields during the various stages of pregnancy are associated with an increased risk of autism disorder, while pyrethroids are related to these disorders, when mothers are exposed immediately before conception and in the third trimester of pregnancy. Carbamates administered during pregnancy are associated with developmental delay.
Pregnant women should try to avoid contact with agricultural chemicals wherever possible
“While still need to be examined whether certain subgroups are more susceptible to exposure of these compounds than others, the message is obvious: Women who are pregnant should take special care to avoid contact with agricultural chemicals wherever possible,” he said in a statement lead author of the study, Jane F. Shelton.
However, in some parts of California, it could be difficult to avoid exposure. California produces more agricultural products than anywhere in the country. At the state level, about 200 million pounds of active pesticides are used each year. Most of the pesticides are applied in the broad central valley. In the Sacramento district, south of the Central Valley, the number of autistic inhabitants in the Sevenfold district has grown seven times since 2000, according to the California Department of Education. In 2001, less than 500 students at the Sacramento District Public School were enrolled in special education programs due to the diagnosis of autism. A fifteen years later, the number increased to 2,275, approximately one in every 105 students.
The relationship between geography and autism has become apparent in the last few years. Los Angeles Times Information, for example, shows that a child born in California has several times more chance of diagnosing autism than a child in, say, Alabama. These numbers indicate that environmental factors contribute to the emergence of autism, and the hypothesis is supported by the latest study by the University of California. “This is, in fact, the third study that shows some association of organophosphate and the risk of autism,” said Irva Herc-Pisioto, the author of the study.
Are those disabilities linked to the pesticide usage?
The researchers were able to conduct the study because, in California, pesticide applicants are required to report where they sprayed the plants. The researchers mapped the homes in which they lived during pregnancy and at the time of their birth, those children with developmental disabilities, and then linked those addresses to a database of commercial pesticide applications in California.
“I think it’s an area where people have to think about how they can make some choices at an individual level, it can be worth it,” Herc-Pisiot said. She also suggested to individuals to avoid the types of exposure that they can easily control, such as pesticides that are applied in their own homes and gardens. “I do not use chemical pesticides that are toxic, I know that sometimes the cultivation of plants takes a little longer, but I am ready to live these extra days to avoid horrible consequences,” she said.