Pesticides negatively affect the signaling molecules of the nervous system; impacting the effective communication between cells and thus evidently showing a link between developmental delay and possibly autism spectrum disorders.
A study taking place in California revealed that mothers living near fields that were treated with certain pesticides were more likely to conceive children with an autism spectrum disorder. More thorough research needs to be conducted in order for scientists to state that an exposure to pesticides is a definite cause of autism, as there are currently more research papers demonstrating the link between pesticides and developmental delays. However these papers all depict a solid link between these developmental delays and pesticide proximity, strongly suggesting that the possibility of it also being the cause of autism is high.
A newer study in California tracked the exposure of pesticides to the mothers of 970 children during their pregnancy, revealing a total of 486 of the aforementioned kids with an autism spectrum disorder, 168 with some kind of developmental delay and only 316 of which undergoing normal development. In this new study, approximately a third of these mothers were located within a mile of pesticide-treated fields (most commonly treated with organophosphates).
The authors of Environmental Health Perspectives report that mothers that are exposed to these organophosphates have a 60% higher chance of having children with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) than those who are not exposed. An estimated 1 in 68 children suffer from ASD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A further approximate of 4% of children in the U.S experience a form of developmental delay, in which the children take an extra amount of time in comparison to those going through normal development to reach fluent communication, social skills or even motor skills.
Exposure to different kinds of pesticides seemed to have a more powerful effect in the third trimester, not long before contraception, whereas in others the time in which exposure occurs during pregnancy appears to be irrelevant.
Here’s the Outcome of the Study
Although this new study didn’t measure the pesticide levels in the air, it’s hypothesized that the pesticides most likely traveled via the air from treated crops, states Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, director in the Children’s Environmental Health Center at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.
Landrigan tells Reuters Health that, “Epidemiological studies of women and animal studies have already revealed the fact that prenatal exposure to chemicals such as pesticides is linked to lower IQ. This particular research is based on these findings, used the inhabitants of a whole state, checked various types of pesticides, and discovered a link between exposure to pesticides and developmental disability in children.”
Furthermore, Landrigan says that this study underrated the factual strength of link between the pesticides and neurological problems due to the fact that it didn’t specifically examined each individual woman’s exposure; thus not getting the accurate results that could have possibly revealed a direct correlation between the two factors.
Few states in the U.S carefully repot and map the use of agricultural pesticides, with California being one such state. The researchers of these studies used the maps to track exposures during pregnancy and they are also a useful tool for mothers to easily pinpoint locations in which to avoid keeping their children from developing ASD, developmental delays or any other related problems.
Concerned parents are advised to advocate for pesticide registries if they are worried about the health of their community. Or parents could simply take the steps to minimize the use of pesticides within their own homes and gardens, for example by sealing up cracks and setting up roach hotels to expel cockroaches rather than spraying the home every month with organophosphates and pyrethroids.