Pesticide Exposure While Pregnant Linked to Autism

Autism and developmental delays were more likely in children of mothers who lived near pesticide applications

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) To date, there is still no known single cause of autism. But recent research may have uncovered a new potential player in the development of the condition.

A team of researchers has found that pregnant women who lived close to places where commercial pesticides were used were more likely to have a child with autism or developmental delays.

"Find out what chemicals are being used around your home."

This study was conducted by Irva Hertz-Picciotto, PhD, MPH, of the University of California Davis Medical Investigations of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (MIND) Institute, and colleagues.

These researchers used the California Pesticide Use Report to find out which pesticide chemicals were being used near the homes of 970 participants. The study included families with children aged 2 to 5 years old.

Chemicals were classified into four main groups: organophosphate, carbamate, pyrethroid and organochlorine.

About one-third of the pregnant women in this study lived within about a mile from a field or farm that used an agricultural pesticide.

Pregnant women who lived close to a place that used organophosphates had a 60 percent higher risking of having a child with autism.

Children of mothers who lived near a place that use pyrethroid insecticides just before getting pregnant or during the third trimester of pregnancy had a higher risk for both autism and developmental delays.

“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,” said Janie F. Shelton, this study's lead author and a UC Davis graduate student who now consults with the United Nations. “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.”

This study was published June 23 in Environmental Health Perspectives.

The research was supported by grants from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Review Date: 
June 23, 2014
Last Updated:
June 23, 2014