New study links aerial pesticide spraying to autism

Children living in areas that carry out aerial spraying of pesticides to kill mosquitoes have a significantly higher rate of autism than children in other areas, a new study has warned.

The study was conducted in the regions with swamps in New York, where pyrethroid pesticides are sprayed during summers to kill and control populations of mosquitoes carrying the virus responsible for conditions like equine encephalitis.

Children living in areas where aerial spraying is conducted each summer were found to be 25 per cent more likely to suffer from autism spectrum disorder than those in surrounding areas. In areas where the spraying is conducted once a year, one in 120 kids experienced autism spectrum disorder as compared with one in 172 in other parts of New York.

Steven Hicks, Asst. Prof. of pediatrics at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, said that their findings showed that the way pesticides are sprayed might have an impact on autism risk among children.

Speaking on the topic, Professor Hicks added, “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.”

Professor Hicks presented the findings at the Pediatric Academic Societies’ meeting on Sunday in Baltimore. Findings presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies are typically considered as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

A report published in Healio revealed, “Hicks and colleagues reported that ZIP codes were not significantly different regarding the number of children, overall births, premature births, poverty or child gender. Study results showed that ZIP codes with aerial dispersal had higher total exposure to pesticides (P = .047). Children living in ZIP codes with aerial spraying had an RR for ASD and developmental delay of 1.25 (95% CI, 1.025-1.506) compared with the other ZIP codes.”

“Preventing mosquito-borne encephalitis is an important task for public health departments,” Hicks said. “Communities that have pesticide programs to help control the mosquito population might consider ways to reduce child pesticide exposure, including alternative application methods.”

“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. However, the findings do not prove that aerial pesticides raise the risk of autism, stressed lead researcher Dr. Steven Hicks, a pediatrician at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, in Hershey, Pa,” according to a news report published by Philly.

He pointed to a study that made the news two years ago. California researchers found that pregnant women who lived within a mile of pesticide-treated crops were slightly more likely to have a child with autism, compared to women who lived farther from the treated fields. The implicated chemicals in the California study belonged to a group known as pyrethroid pesticides, Hicks noted.

According to a report in Tech Times by James Maynard, “Children living in regions where aerial spraying took place each year were found to be 25 percent more likely to experience autism spectrum disorder and developmental delays than those youth in surrounding areas. In regions where the spraying took place, one in 120 children experienced ASD or developmental delays, compared to one in 172 in other parts of the state.”

“Our findings show that the way pesticides are distributed may change that risk. 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,” Steven Hicks, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, managed by Penn State, said.

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