Prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides later associated with autism

Photo credit: Robin Salman

A new study has linked prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides (some of the most widely used insecticides in the United States) with symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder in the CHAMACOS study. Exposure to organophosphate pesticides was determined from urine samples taken from the mothers during pregnancy. Researchers also noted the distance mothers lived from areas where organophosphate pesticides were used during their pregnancy. Children’s traits were measured using reports from teachers and parents, and researchers also tested children on their ability to recognize facial expressions at age 7, 10½ and 14.  Study results demonstrated a positive association with the presence of organophosphate metabolites in the urine of pregnant women and the presence of parent and teacher reported traits related to autism spectrum disorder but not with results from facial recognition tests. Additionally, proximity to pesticide use was not correlated with symptoms of autism spectrum disorder. “These findings contribute to evidence showing associations of modifiable environmental risk factors with ASD-related traits,” researchers noted.