Pesticides and Autism

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • The exact cause of autism is not known, but scientists do believe that it is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. One such environmental factor may be pesticides. A number of studies have shown a link between pesticide use or exposure during pregnancy and developmental delays, including autism spectrum disorders (ASD):

    • A study completed in 2007 and published in the Environmental Health Perspective found that women living close to farms using pesticides had a higher chance of having a child with ASD. This study did not definitively associate pesticides with ASD but the results indicated that a possible link existed and further studies were needed.
    •  Another study, also published in the Environmental Health Perspective in 2007 showed a higher rate of children with developmental delays when mothers had higher levels of pesticides in their urine. It should be noted that according to an article by Janie F. Shelton, Irva Hertz-Picciotto and Isaac N. Pessah, between 80 and 100 percent of women have detectable levels of pesticides in their urine at any given time.

    Pesticides are meant to kill insects and rodents. They are found in pet shampoo, pet flea and tick products and collars as well as household products used to kill insects in the house. While it is recommended that the use of pesticides be avoided during pregnancy, that isn’t always possible. Some mothers may be able to stop using such products, or at least ask other household members to touch pet products containing pesticides. But for other mothers, living near a farm means living near pesticides. A study completed by California state health officials found that women living in close proximity to fields sprayed with organochlorine pesticides may have a higher rate of children born with autism.

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:


    A more recent study, which didn’t link pesticides to an illness, but measured air samples from homes along the Texas-Mexico border found that a majority of the homes in that area contained multiple pesticides. While this may not be indicative of your area, it is still important to be aware of the possible harm to unborn, developing children and avoid using or being around pesticides.

    A pesticide is, according to law, any substance intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest.” These products include:

    • Bug repellents
    • Herbicides – including some products used for weed control in yards
    • Antimicrobials – including toilet bowl sanitizers, swimming pool chemicals, bleach
    • Household bug spray and rodent poisons
    • Pet products such as sprays, powders, shampoos and collars

    Other products that may contain pesticides are kitchen, laundry and bath disinfectants and sanitizers as well as those household products used to kill mold and mildew.




    “Babies in the Womb Affected by Pesticides in the Home,” 2012, July 13, Staff Writer, Medical News Today


    “Common Chemicals May Have Autism Link,” 2008, Mar 15, Lauren Cox, ABC News Medical Unit


    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    “Pesticide Exposure and Risk of Autism,” 2012, July 27, Alycia Halladay, Ph.D., Autism Speaks


    “Pesticide Link to Autism Suspected,” 2007, July 30, Marla Cone, Los Angeles Times


    “Tipping the Balance of Autism Risk: Potential Mechanisms Linking Pesticides and Autism,” Janie F. Shelton, Irva Hertz-Picciotto and I

Published On: August 22, 2012