California study suggests link between autism and pesticide exposure

A “very preliminary” study from the California Department of Public Health suggests that higher rates of autism can be seen in children whose mothers were exposed to two organochlorine pesticides still in use in the United States, endosulfan and dicofol. Organochlorine pesticides, which take a long time to break down in the environment, affect the human nervous system; dicofol is a possible human carcinogen. Researchers examined the records of about 270,000 kids born to women living in agricultural regions of California between 1996 and 1998. Of those, 465 kids developed autism, and the mothers who lived in close proximity to fields that used the two pesticides were found to be some six times more likely than those who did not to give birth to children who developed autism. The study authors stress that the study wasn’t large enough to warrant cause-and-effect-type pronouncements. They concluded that “the possibility of a connection between gestational exposure to organochlorine pesticides and autism spectrum disorders requires further study.”