Pesticides and Autism


With the state of California planning to spray unnecessary, ineffective, untested (and known to be harmful) pesticides on 7 million people, I think it’s prudent to highlight studies that demonstrate the increased risk of autism associated with pesticides. (See my recent newsletter about the spraying) Many of us in the “biomedical” community believe a genetic predisposition combined with certain environmental assaults triggers autism in many children.  Pesticides are one of these triggers. A study published by the Environmental Health Perspective in 2007, “Organophosphate Pesticide Exposure and Neurodevelopment in Young Mexican-American Children,”1 showed an increased risk in PDD [Pervasive Developmental Disorders] associated with prenatal and postnatal exposure to pesticides.  These same exposures did not increase the risk of psychomotor development indices or the child behavior checklist for attention problems, but specifically PDD, a category of childhood developmental delays that includes autism. Another study on pesticides was published in October 2007, “Maternal Residence Near Agricultural Pesticide Applications and Autism Spectrum Disorders among Children in the California Central Valley.”2; Researchers, led by Dr. Eric Roberts, studied prenatal exposure during a critical period for development of central nervous system (weeks 1-8 of gestation).  The study found “ASD [autism spectrum disorder] risk increased with the poundage of organochlorine applied and decreased with distance from field sites.” Does it really take a “rocket scientist” or in this case a “brain scientist” to question whether chemicals designed to kill, often specifically by paralyzing the central nervous system, might have a negative effect on the human nervous system (i.e. nerve and brain cells)?  For most thinking beings, this is a pretty basic question on their mind. Those of us who are thinking need to question these pesticide practices and protect our children and communities.  If you are in Northern California and have a child (with autism or not), plan to get pregnant, or are just a concerned citizen, go to or  If you are in another state, do not allow pesticides to be blindly sprayed in your environment. Let’s begin to take back control of our environment and not allow industry and corporate interests dictate what is, or is not, safe. May common sense prevail. 1 – Brenda Eskenazi, Amy R. Marks, Asa Bradman, Kim Harley, Dana B. Barr, Caroline Johnson, Norma Morga, and Nicholas P. Jewell. Organophosphate Pesticide Exposure and Neurodevelopment in Young Mexican-American Children. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2007 May; 115(5): 792–798. 2 – Eric M. Roberts, Paul B. English, Judith K. Grether, Gayle C. Windham, Lucia Somberg, and Craig Wolff. Maternal Residence Near Agricultural Pesticide Applications and Autism Spectrum Disorders among Children in the California Central Valley. Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 115, Number 10, October 2007.

Julie Matthews is a Certified Nutrition Consultant who received her master’s degree in medical nutrition with distinction from Arizona State University. She is also a published nutrition researcher and has specialized in complex neurological conditions, particularly autism spectrum disorders and ADHD for over 20 years. Julie is the award winning author of Nourishing Hope for Autism, co-author of a study proving the efficacy of nutrition and dietary intervention for autism published in the peer-reviewed journal, Nutrients, and also the founder of Download her free guide, 12 Nutrition Steps to Better Health, Learning, and Behavior.


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