A new study has revealed that exposure to some banned chemicals at prenatal stage of pregnancy could be putting children at risk for autism.

The chemical substances identified by the study to cause autism in kids include organochlorines which are known for their persistence in the environment even after long years of application.

The research finding was published in a recent edition of the journal “Environmental Health Perspectives”.

Kristen Lyall, assistant professor at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute at Drexel University in Philadelphia, U.S.A, and colleagues set out to investigate whether prenatal exposure to organochlorines in the U.S. could be linked to autism development – a possible association that they say has received little attention.

The team drew data from the Expanded Alphafetoprotein Prenatal Screening Programme, involving 1,144 children who were born in Southern California between years 2000 and 2003 and their mothers.

Of the children, 545 were diagnosed with autism, 181 had intellectual disabilities, but no diagnosis of autism, while 418 were free of autism and intellectual disabilities.

Children’s prenatal exposure to PCBs and other organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) – including DDT – was determined through blood samples taken from the mother during the second trimester of pregnancy.

The team identified two compounds – PCB 138/158 and PCB 153 – to appear to have the strongest link with autism. Children with the highest prenatal exposure to these PCBs were found to be at 79 – 82 per cent greater risk of autism, compared with those with the lowest prenatal exposure.

Overall, the researchers say their findings indicate that higher exposure to organochlorines in pregnancy may raise the risk of autism and intellectual disabilities for offspring

Organochlorines are chemicals which were widely used as pesticides, lubricants, and insulators in the U.S. between the 1950s and 1970s – including dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) – that were also widely used as pesticides, lubricants, and insulators in the U.S. during the period.

The significant nature of these pesticides is that, after their application or use in the farm, they are not readily soluble. Major exposure to these chemicals is through diet – mainly consumption of meat and fish – as the compounds accumulate in soil, lake sediment, and in animal fat.



Author: Dotun Obatuyi

My name is Dotun Obatuyi (Dotunoba), I hail from Osun state, a public health scientist (monitoring and evaluation specialist), my keen interests are researching, critiquing and writing feature articles on health, science and technology as well as issues around the globe.