The extended use of airplanes to spray anti-mosquito pesticides may be contributing to an incremented risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or developmental delay among children, according to a new study presented Saturday by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This is the first time that researchers find such a link.

Central New York was the area of study, specifically a region that is sprayed with pyrethroid pesticides with planes, every summer. These substances seek to attack mosquitoes vectors of the eastern equine encephalitis virus, which causes disorientation, seizures, coma or brain damage, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that the areas where airplanes spray anti-mosquito pesticides show an increase in autism rates. Credit: Time

A team lead by Dr. Steven Kicks, a pediatrician at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, has found that children living in ZIP codes where the use of sprayed pesticides is common, are 25 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ASD. In comparison with children living in non-sprayed areas.

Pesticides may not be the problem

A theory suggests that what may be affecting children are not the pesticides itself, but the method. Places where pesticides are distributed through granules or controlled droplet applicators, may not be impacted.

Dr. Kicks said that previous studies have already shown that exposure to pesticide may increase child’s risk for ASD or developmental delay. However, new findings could demonstrate the way they are distributed is relevant, said Dr. Kicks in a statement issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics on Saturday.

“Preventing mosquito-borne encephalitis is an important task for public health departments. Communities that have pesticide programs to help control the mosquito population might consider ways to reduce child pesticide exposure, including alternative application methods,” Kicks said.

Which is the impact of ASD in the United States?

Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability that can cause communication challenges, said the CDC. It is developed during early childhood and it is maintained throughout a person’s life.

In the United States, 1 out of 68 children in the country has been identified with the disorder, which is 4.5 times more common among boys than among girls, according to the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring.

Researchers said further investigation about the impact of pesticides in ASD is needed to take public action against the way that these substances are distributed. According to Dr. Kicks, the study has presented more questions than answers.

Previous investigations have suggested that Californian women, who live nearby pesticide-treated crops, have more chances to have a child with autism, than women living farther.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics