A new study found a link between a mother’s exposure to the now-banned pesticide DDT and Autism.
Live Science reported that moms in Finland who had high levels of DDE, which occurs with DDT exposure, had more children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In fact, women with higher levels of DDE had a 32 percent greater chance of having a child with Autism than those women who had lower levels of DDE. In the United States, roughly one out of every 59 people born has ASD, but there’s no one known cause, and possible causes are the subject of raging debates at times.
The lead researcher on the study, Dr. Alan Brown, a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, said that DDE is just “one piece of a puzzle.” According to Dr. Brown, “very likely, you need other predisposing factors [for autism] in addition to [DDE]. I don’t think moms should be going out and getting tested for these things.”
The pesticide, DDT has been banned for 30 years now in several countries, including the United States as well as Finland, which is the country the scientists used for data in this study. Unfortunately, the chemicals in DDT break down very slowly, and they are still in the environments where the spray was used in the past.
“What happened was DDT was sprayed in the air as an insecticide to kill mosquitoes, to kill bugs on fruits and vegetables. Then, it got into the soil and groundwater,” according to Dr. Brown. Because of that fact, nearly every single person has some level of DDT, which ends up metabolized by human bodies and becomes DDE.
Inutereo fetuses are exposed to higher levels of the chemicals too “because they kind of get concentrated when they go through the mom’s blood to the placenta. Then, they get into the fetal brain, and they alter fetal brain development,” Dr. Brown said.
Despite the increased risk of Autism due to exposure to DDE, the study’s lead researcher noted that most fetuses exposed to the chemicals will not end up developing the neurological disorder. Even so, his advice to women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant is to eat organic fruits and vegetables when possible along with washing produce before consuming it.
According to a report from The Daily Mail, high-level exposure to DDT is known to cause tremors, seizure, and nausea. Plus, the pesticide may be carcinogenic.