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New Study Finds Link Between Autism and Insecticide

Insecticides are banned for a reason, and one particularly dangerous anti-pest chemical is now linked to autism. A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry has released findings relating risk of autism with exposure to this insecticide.

DDT is now a widely banned insecticide, but the damage was done years ago. This chemical takes decades to decay, and as such is still found in the food chain. It can be transferred through the placenta in women who have been exposed, affecting the child.

The study had been ongoing from 1978 to 2005. It evaluated more than 1 million pregnancies at the Finnish Maternity Cohort, which represents an astounding 98% of women in Finland. These women had blood tests taken throughout their pregnancy, testing for metabolites of DDE (part of the DDT insecticide) and other environmental pollutants.

For the women whose DDE blood levels were in the top 25 percentile, the likelihood that their child would have autism was more than double. While the blood samples reveal the presence of DDE, the placenta can take in a higher concentration than is seen in the mother’s blood.

“Along with genetic and other environmental factors, our findings suggest that prenatal exposure to the DDT toxin may be a trigger for autism," says lead author Alan S. Brown, MD, MPH, Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and of Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center.

The research was adjusted to consider maternal age and psychiatric history, but the findings were persistent. Researchers positively identified 778 cases of childhood autism during the study.

There are two autism risk factors offered concerning DDT levels in expectant mothers. The first is low birthweight. The second is inhibition of neuro-develop

mental receptors. If these receptors are blocked or bound, there can be delays in the development of the brain that are consistent with those seen in rat models with autism.

Some other environmental pollutants did not have the same effect, pointing to DDE as the cause.

Professor. Brown says these chemicals are from “a long-gone era of dangerous 20th Century toxins” but that “they are still present in the environment and are in our blood and tissues.”

The study was conducted in Finland by a group of researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the Department of Psychiatry alongside investigators from the University of Turku and the National Health Institute of Health and Welfare in Finland. The report affirms that the presence of DDE metabolites from DDT in pregnant women’s blood can increase the risk of autism in their children.

For more on this study, head to the source:


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