The California Department of Public Health released a study July 30 that officials said "suggests a possible connection between autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and maternal exposure to pesticides."
The study, published in the online edition of Environmental Health Perspectives, found that among 29 mothers who lived near agricultural fields where "the highest level of organochlorine pesticides were applied during their first trimester of pregnancy," eight of the children born received diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder. While the sample study is small, and it was unclear how much pesticide exposure these pregnant women received during this period, the state researchers said it warranted more study because the rate of autism prevalence was six times higher than that found in a control group of pregnant women.
"This study is initial research into possible environmental factors in California that may contribute to autism," said Dr. Mark Horton, director of the state's department of public health. "It's important to understand that these preliminary findings do not establish a causal relationship between exposure to these pesticides and autism."
You can find a free copy of the study here, via the Environmental Health Perspectives website. This journal is sponsored by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences. A press release from the California Department of Public Health is available via its website.
The autism-environment link is a hot topic among medical and environmental researchers who are looking into potential causes of autism (other lines of inquiry include genetics, and some combination of both). Also see:
* Institute of Medicine to Discuss Investigating Autism-Environment Link
* Discover Magazine Reviews Investigation into Autism-Environment Link
* Studying Autism as a Whole Body Condition, with Environmental Factors