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Pesticides and autism

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: (Published 20 March 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l1149

Linked Research

Prenatal and infant exposure to ambient pesticides and autism spectrum disorder in children

  1. Amanda V Bakian, assistant professor1,
  2. James A VanDerslice, associate professor2
  1. 1Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, 84108, USA
  2. 2Division of Public Health, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA
  1. Correspondence to: A V Bakian amanda.bakian{at}

Prenatal and early life pesticide exposure linked to modest increases in risk of autism

Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by restricted interests, repetitive behaviors, and deficits in social communication and interaction. Although the condition was previously considered rare, recent prevalence estimates suggest that 1.7%1 to 2.6%2 of children in the developed world are currently affected by autism.

Autism spectrum disorder is a complex and heterogeneous condition and much uncertainty surrounds the cause. Twin3 and family based4 studies have shown that it is a highly heritable condition, with inherited5 and de novo6 genetic sources contributing considerably to risk. Genetic risk, however, does not entirely explain autism’s aetiology, indicating that autism also has environmental origins. A growing body of scientific literature implicates exposure to ambient pesticides during pregnancy and early childhood as an environmental risk factor for autism spectrum disorder.78910

The linked study by von Ehrenstein and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj.l962)10 using population based data from California represents the largest epidemiologic effort to date investigating the relations among exposures to ambient pesticides during pregnancy and early childhood and risk …

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