With recent research shedding light to the fact that pregnant mothers living near pesticide-infested farms were 60 percent more likely to have autistic children, perhaps it’s time to delve a little deeper into the problems surrounding pesticide use nationwide.
Though most of the mothers with autistic children in the study lived near fields treated with pesticides, most of the fields had several different pesticides– so understanding the risks of individual chemicals is an especially tall order, said epidemiologist Janie Shelton, PhD, the study’s lead author.
The study also found a greater risk of developmental delays separate from autism in children whose mothers lived near fields where carbamates (a commonly used pesticide) were administered during their pregnancy.
Furthermore, pesticides were seen to disrupt brain development and signaling so that social interactions, learning and behavior were significantly impaired.
Former studies have associated pesticide use in California to autism spectrum disorders, too. A 2007 research project witnessed pervasive developmental disorders doubled with 531 children whose mothers’ urine had greater amounts of organophosphate pesticides. Another study from that year showed that mothers who lived near fields with two now-banned pesticides, called endosulfan and dicofol, were a whopping six times more likely to have children with autism spectrum disorders.
Autism rates have been increasing in the United States, with the numbers climbing 30 percent between 2012 and 2014 alone. This rise in autism cases has been credited to alterations in diagnostic criteria.
“Many children that we used to call intellectually disabled and many more with social deficits are now recognized as being on the autism spectrum,” says Kathy Katz, PhD, a pediatric psychologist at Georgetown University Medical Center.
Many experts think that environmental exposures could be another reason for the heightened autism rates, with researchers finding that roughly one-third of the increase could be explained by changing diagnoses or kids being diagnosed at younger and younger ages.
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