BALTIMORE — Aerial dispersal of pesticides intended to combat mosquitoes increased the risk for autism spectrum disorder and developmental delays by 25% among children living in those areas, according to recent research presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting.
“Other studies have already shown that pesticide exposure might increase a child’s risk for autism spectrum disorder or developmental delay,” Steven D. Hicks, MD, PhD, of the department of pediatrics at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, said in a press release. “Our findings show that the way pesticides are distributed may change that risk.”
The researchers retrospectively reviewed records from six pediatric centers in central New York to estimate the number of children with ASD and developmental delays within 24 ZIP codes, from March 2010 to March 2015. ASD cases were identified by using ICD-9 codes for ASD and developmental delays. Data from the Department of Environmental Conservation were used to determine pesticide exposure within the designated ZIP codes. The researchers included eight ZIP codes that were exposed to yearly aerial pyrethroid pesticide dispersals and compared those with 16 ZIP codes where pesticides were applied by standard methods.
Hicks and colleagues reported that ZIP codes were not significantly different regarding the number of children, overall births, premature births, poverty or child gender. Study results showed that ZIP codes with aerial dispersal had higher total exposure to pesticides (P = .047). Children living in ZIP codes with aerial spraying had an RR for ASD and developmental delay of 1.25 (95% CI, 1.025-1.506) compared with the other ZIP codes.
“Preventing mosquito-borne encephalitis is an important task for public health departments,” Hicks said. “Communities that have pesticide programs to help control the mosquito population might consider ways to reduce child pesticide exposure, including alternative application methods.” – by David Costill
Hicks SD, et al. Poster 1508.488. Presented at: Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting; April 30-May 3, 2016; Baltimore.
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.