While there have been many theories over the years, the direct causes of autism are unknown. Finding a cause will not only help with prevention, but with furthering autism and Asperger’s treatment. The latest research indicates that children whose mothers are exposed to agricultural pesticides during pregnancy could be at increased risk for autism spectrum disorders, or ASD.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, looked at the medical records of 970 participants. They discovered that pregnant women who lived within a mile of an area treated with three different types of pesticides were at a higher risk of having a child with ASD. The increased risk was substantial—over 60%. The pesticide-treated areas included golf courses, pastures, parks and roadsides. Women exposed to these pesticides during their second and third trimesters seemed to be at the highest risk.
Scientists have long hypothesized that environmental chemicals play a role in the cause of autism. Further research is needed in order to determine whether a mother’s genes increase the risk. Until it is known whether pesticides and chemicals inside the home pose similar risks, it is advisable for pregnant women to limit their exposure as much as possible.