State Study Links Pesticides To Higher Rates of Autism
Central Valley women who live in close proximity to farms sprayed with organochlorine pesticides might be more likely to give birth to children with autism, according to a Public Health Department study published online in Environmental Health Perspectives on Monday, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The study is the first to report a connection between pesticides and the neurological disorder. The scientists found that in their study of the nearly 300,000 children born in the 19 counties of the Sacramento and San Joaquin river valleys between 1996 through 1998, 465 had autism.
The study suggests that 7% of autism cases in the Central Valley during that time period might have been linked to exposure to the insecticides.
Moreover, eight, or 28%, of the 29 women who lived within 500 meters of farm fields where endosulfan and dicofol were sprayed had children with autism, a rate six times higher than the national average.
The autism rate declined as the mothers' distance from the fields increased, the Times reports (Cone, Los Angeles Times, 7/30).
Of the 19 pesticides considered in the study, a link with autism was found only for organochlorines (Feder Ostrov, San Jose Mercury News, 7/31).
Mark Horton, director of the Public Health Department, said, "We have found very preliminary data that there may be an association" (Los Angeles Times, 7/30). However, Horton added that the findings are "not robust enough" to make a definite conclusion on the issue and called for additional research (Jimenez, Fresno Bee, 7/31).
The report adds to existing evidence that endosulfan and dicofol, which have been banned in some countries, are harmful, Susan Kegley, senior scientist of Pesticide Action Network North America, said.
A July report on air monitoring in Fresno, Monterey and Tulare counties by the Department of Pesticide Regulation said endosulfan can spread far from fields via the air.
Both chemicals are used most extensively in Fresno, Kings, Imperial and Tulare counties (Los Angeles Times, 7/30).
KPCC's "AirTalk" on Monday included a discussion about the study. Guests on the program included:
- Marla Cone, who reported on the study for the Times;
- Kegley; and
- Isaac Pesseh, a molecular biologist at the UC-Davis MIND Institute (Mantle, "AirTalk," KPCC, 7/30).
Full audio of the segment is available online. This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.