Aerial Pesticide Spraying May Heighten Autism Risks

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A new study has found that children who live in areas where aerial pesticides are sprayed to kill mosquitoes are more likely to develop autism, Science Daily reports.

This research was conducted in regions of New York where swamps exist. Pyrethroid pesticides are sprayed during summertime to kill virus-carrying mosquitoes that spread conditions like equine encephalitis.

Dr. Steven Hicks, Asst. Professor of Pediatrics at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, said, “Researchers found that children living in a swampy region in central New York were 25 percent more likely to have been diagnosed with autism or general developmental delay, compared to children in other parts of the state.”

The study noted that in areas where pesticide spraying happened once a year, one in 120 children experienced autism spectrum disorder, compared with one in 172 in other parts of New York.

Hicks said that the way the pesticides were sprayed might be responsible for the heightened risk for autism.

Hicks and his team referred to a past study in California that found that pregnant women who lived within one mile of crops sprayed with pesticides were slightly more likely to give birth to children with autism, compared to women who lived far from the fields. The chemicals responsible for these results belonged to a group called pyrethroid pesticides. TIME has a report on the study.

“Our findings show that the way pesticides are distributed may change that risk,” Hicks explained. “Preventing mosquito-borne encephalitis is an important task for public health departments. Communities that have pesticide programs to help control the mosquito population might consider ways to reduce child pesticide exposure, including alternative application methods,” Hicks said. He added that, “However, the findings do not prove that aerial pesticides raise the risk of autism.”

Hicks presented the research findings at the Pediatric Academic Societies’ meeting on Sunday in Baltimore, awaiting publication in a peer-reviewed journal.


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