High pes­ti­cide lev­els in preg­nant moth­ers linked to autism in chil­dren

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Alert -

THE LAT­EST re­search has found a link be­tween high lev­els of pes­ti­cides dur­ing preg­nancy and an in­creased risk of autism in chil­dren. Con­ducted by re­searchers at Columbia Univer­sity along with the Univer­sity of Turku and the Na­tional In­sti­tute for Health and Wel­fare, Fin­land, the study looked at data gath­ered from the Fin­nish Pre­na­tal Study of Autism, a na­tional birth co­hort study, to ex­am­ine the lev­els of DDE in preg­nant women.

DDE is a break­down prod­uct of the pes­ti­cide DDT (dichlorodiphenyl­trichloroethane), which, though banned in many coun­tries decades ago, can still be found in the food chain. This re­sults in con­tin­u­ous ex­po­sure among some pop­u­la­tions, and as the chem­i­cals trans­fer across the pla­centa, chil­dren may also be at risk of pre­na­tal ex­po­sure. For the new study the re­searchers looked at 778 chil­dren with autism and 778 chil­dren with­out autism who acted as con­trol sub­jects. They mea­sured the lev­els of DDE and DDT in blood serum sam­ples taken from the moth­ers dur­ing early preg­nancy.

Af­ter tak­ing into ac­count the mother’s age and other pos­si­ble fac­tors, the re­sults showed that the chance of a child hav­ing autism was sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased if the mother had an el­e­vated level of DDE, de­fined as the 75th per­centile or greater. In ad­di­tion, the odds of chil­dren hav­ing autism with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­ity in­creased more than twofold when ma­ter­nal DDE lev­els were above this thresh­old. “We think of these chem­i­cals in the past tense, rel­e­gated to a long­gone era of danger­ous 20th Cen­tury tox­ins,” says lead au­thor Alan S. Brown.

“Un­for­tu­nately, they are still present in the en­vi­ron­ment and are in our blood and tis­sues. In preg­nant women, they are passed along to the de­vel­op­ing fe­tus. Along with ge­netic and other en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors, our find­ings sug­gest that pre­na­tal ex­po­sure to the DDT toxin may be a trig­ger for autism.” The re­searchers also ex­am­ined the lev­els of PCBs (poly­chlo­ri­nated biphenyls), which are chem­i­cals used in in­dus­trial ap­pli­ca­tion, but found no as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween the chem­i­cals and autism in chil­dren.

The au­thors con­cluded that their find­ings “pro­vide the first biomarker-based ev­i­dence that ma­ter­nal ex­po­sure to in­sec­ti­cides is as­so­ci­ated with autism among off­spring.” They noted that the study con­trib­utes to the un­der­stand­ing of autism and has im­pli­ca­tions for pre­vent­ing the dis­or­der. How­ever, they added, the re­sults do not prove cau­sa­tion, and fur­ther re­search is nec­es­sary. The re­sults were pub­lished in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Psy­chi­a­try. – Re­laxnews

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