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LIVING NEAR PESTICIDES IN PREGNANCY UPS AUTISM RISK

Pregnant women living in close proximity to chemical pesticide application had a two-thirds higher risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder or other developmental delay, according to a new study.

The associations were stronger when the exposures occurred during the second and third trimesters of the women’s pregnancies.

The large, multisite California-based study examined associations between specific classes of pesticides, including organophosphates, pyrethroids, and carbamates, applied during the study participants’ pregnancies and later diagnoses of autism and developmental delay in their offspring. It appears online in Environmental Health Perspectives.

“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,” says lead study author Janie F. Shelton, a University of California, 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.”

California is the top agricultural producing state in the nation, grossing $38 billion in revenue from farm crops in 2010. Statewide, approximately 200 million pounds of active pesticides are applied each year, most of it in the Central Valley, north to the Sacramento Valley and south to the Imperial Valley on the California-Mexico border.

While pesticides are critical for the modern agriculture industry, certain commonly used pesticides are neurotoxic and may pose threats to brain development