Live Near a Field with Pesticides? Children Could Be at Higher Risk for Autism

Autism is affecting more and more children. Between 2007 and 2012, the likelihood that a school-age child would be diagnosed with autism, Asperger or a related developmental disorder increased by 72 percent. That increase is partly attributed to simply a rise in awareness of autism spectrum disorders. But the question remains: what’s causing autism?

There is no known cause of autism, but there has been ongoing concern over the link between the developmental disorder and toxins, specifically as it relates to prenatal exposure. A new study from UC Davis adds to that growing concern, showing that pregnant women who live in proximity to agricultural fields where pesticides are used are at higher risk of having a child with autism.

The researchers took data from the California Pesticide Use Report, which shows what pesticides are used and where, and overlaid it with addresses of about 1,000 participants in a Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and Environment study, “a population-based, case-control study of children ages 2-5 with autism, developmental delay and typical development,” according to the Fresno Bee. The study area was primarily around the Sacramento area, a region rich with agriculture.

The researchers specifically looked at four groups of pesticides: organophosphates, organochlorines, pyrethroids and carbamates. These are common pesticides in the Sacramento Valley, used for agricultural production like cantaloupe, melon, oranges, tomato processing, cotton and alfalfa.

Analyzing the data, the researchers established that about one-third of the mothers in the study lived within just under a mile of an agricultural pesticide application when they were pregnant, and the farther the pregnant women lived from where pesticides were sprayed, the more the risk for autism decreased.

On days when pesticides are being applied, parents may want “to leave town or keep their children away or close the windows,” Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto, senior author of the report and professor and vice chair of the Department of Public Health Services at UC Davis, told the Fresno Bee.

This isn’t the first study of its kind in California. In 2007, a study “found children born to mothers who had been exposed to two organochlorine pesticides during their first trimester of pregnancy were six times more likely to develop autism than a control group whose mothers did not live near fields.”

While there is currently no known cause of autism, “a large number of widely used agricultural pesticides have known neurologic effects,” said the study, making more research on the connection between pesticides and autism even more important.

Photo Credit: benketaro


Francesca A-S
Past Member 2 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago

Well, I don´t think living near pesticides can be good... Thanks

Julia H.
Past Member 2 years ago

My husbands brother, Doug, has schizophrenia and is bi-polar. He has three children, two of which have autism. So I do believe mental illness may play a role in autism as some have stated here. We also feel Doug has undiagnosed autism as he shows some behaviors. Both he and his oldest son are highly functioning and very intelligent but lack in many social aspects. The other son is morbidly autistic and also suffers from chromosome 18. He and his family do not live in a farming community but rather in a large metro community.

When my brother-in-law sought out is birth family (he is adopted), he found out there was a lot of mental illness in his family. I do believe there is a genetic connection there but something in our environment might trigger it. It certainly could be chemicals messing with the brain in some people. So hard to pinpoint though.

Bottom line is that chemicals are used much too liberally now days and we do not yet know what damage they are doing. They are highly suspect in my book whether they trigger diseases or not.

Julia H.
Past Member 2 years ago

I am conflicted on this topic. I, myself, am greatly affected negatively by chemicals in this world. I also share symptoms that autistic people have, such as being highly sensitive to noise, lights and smells. I grew up working on my brother-in-laws farm spraying beans. My siblings and I rode on the front of a tractor with a spray nozzle in hand spraying the weeds in the bean fields. The nozzles would leak Roundup all over us. That was well before any of the warnings came about and well before my health issues started. I have 9 siblings but I am the only one (so far) that is sensitive to chemicals and I am one of the youngest. My family is huge yet none of my nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews have autism and many have worked on the farm just as we had. I currently have 57 nieces and nephews so not sure I am buying the chemical/autism connection. However, genes could definitely be a factor. My mother and my son both had the exact same type of cancer: B-cell, non-hodgkins lymphoma and were diagnosed within a week of each other. The Mayo doctors told us there could be a genetic component in our family and then something in the environment triggers it to grow. So, it is possible for both genetics and environment to play a part.

Catrin K.

There are many reasons why we should not eat food with so many chemicals , no matter if a link to autism is proven or not !

Donnaa D.
donnaa d2 years ago


Martha Ferris
Martha Ferris2 years ago

I remember every year happily inhaling the spray used on the potato fields across the road from where I grew up. I liked the smell. The planes would fly over the house coming and going with their chemicals. Now I wonder about the damage caused by this exposure.

Anteater Ants
Anteater Ants2 years ago

He G.: maybe they cooperate with the pharmaceutical industry? They poison us to make us sick and force us to buy medicines... It's possible,

Anteater Ants
Anteater Ants2 years ago

no surprise