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New Study Links Pesticide Exposure in Pregnancy to Autism

A new study by the University of California, Davis shows that mothers who live close to fields treated with certain pesticides during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to children with autism spectrum disorder and developmental delays. This is the third study to link autism to pesticide exposure, and more papers have shown links with developmental delays.

The study was conducted in the state of California, which is one of only a few states in the United States where agricultural pesticide use is reported and mapped. Using these maps, the researchers at the university tracked exposures during pregnancy for 970 children. One third of the mothers lived within a mile of fields treated with pesticides. The study found that 486 children had an autism spectrum disorder, 168 children had a developmental delay and 316 had typical development.

Mothers exposed to organophosphates, the most common pesticide in the study, were found to be 60 percent more likely to have a child with an autism spectrum disorder than mothers that were not exposed. The risk for autism and developmental delays was also increased with exposure to pyethroid insecticides. An increase in developmental delays was linked to carbamate pesticides, but autism was not.

The study showed that some pesticides were more likely to have an effect when exposure was in the third trimester, but for other pesticides, the time of exposure did not seem to make a difference.

Previous studies had shown that prenatal exposure to pesticides is linked to lower IQ, so this study builds on the pattern of widespread association between pesticides and developmental problems. Pesticides have been found to affect signaling between cells in the nervous system, so a direct link between pesticides and autism is possible. During pregnancy, the blood-brain barrier is not fully formed, so pesticides may reach vulnerable nerve cells.

If your child suffered from a birth injury, we will be happy to talk with you to answer your questions and determine if the injury is linked to events during pregnancy. Please contact us online or call us at 877-737-8525 for a free consultation. We represent clients in birth injury lawsuits in California and Pennsylvania and can help you find birth injury lawyers nationwide.