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Exposure to Roundup, chlorpyrifos and other widely used pesticides during pregnancy appears to increase the risk of giving birth to a child who is later diagnosed with autism, according to the findings of new resarch.
In a study published this month in the medical journal The BMJ, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles indicate that prenatal exposure to most pesticides and herbicides increased the risk of autism spectrum disorder, with intellectual disability by about 30%.
Researchers specifically looked at the effects of exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup weedkillers, as well as the chlorpyrifos, avermectin, diazinon, malathion and permethrin.
The population based case-control study involved birth data from 1998 to 2010 in Central Valley in California. The researchers looked at nearly 3,000 individuals with an autism diagnosis through state records, and matched controls by sex and birth year. They also looked at Pesticide use Reporting data to estimate prenatal exposure and infant exposure, with exposure considered being within 2,000 meters of the maternal residence during the pregnancy or during infancy.
The strongest associations were to children born with autism spectrum disorder with intellectual disability. According to the findings, prenatal exposure increased the risk by more than 30% with Roundup and by just under 30% with chlorpyrifos. The highest association was with permethrin, which increases the risk of autism with intellectual disability by just under 50%.
“Findings suggest that an offspring’s risk of autism spectrum disorder increases following prenatal exposure to ambient pesticides within 2000 m of their mother’s residence during pregnancy, compared with offspring of women from the same agricultural region without such exposure,” the researchers determined. “Infant exposure could further increase risks for autism spectrum disorder with comorbid intellectual disability.”
Chlorpyrifos Health Concerns
The findings come at a time of increased concern over the side effects of chlorpyrifos exposure.
Manufactured by Dow Chemical, chlorpyrifos was first put into use in 1965. It was banned in household settings in 2001, due to the health risks. However, it is still used on more than 40,000 farms nationally for 50 different types of crops, including grapes and almonds. It was sold under a variety of brand names, including Dursban and Lorsban, as well as Scout, Empire, Eradex, and Warhawk.
A study published in 2014 added chlorpyrifos to a list of 11 chemicals identified as developmental neurotoxins, with widespread damaging affects to developing brains and reducing intelligence. Researchers indicated chlorpyrifos, along with other chemicals, may cause neurodevelopmental disabilities in children, including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia.
The findings also come amid concerns over cancer risks from glyphosate and Roundup products.
Bayer’s Monsanto unit currently faces more than 11,000 product liability lawsuits involving individuals diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma following Roundup exposure, each raising similar allegations that the manufacturer has withheld known risk information and failed to provide safety instructions for the glyphosate-based weedkiller.
Last summer, a state court lawsuit went to trial in California, resulting in a jury award of $289 million to a former school groundskeeper dying from non-Hodgkins lymphoma, including $250 million in punitive damages designed to punish the manufacturer. While the punitive damages were subsequently reduced, the judge who presided over the claim determined that the company should still pay $78 million in damages.
This week, the first federal trial ended in an $80 million verdict, after the jury found that Monsanto’s Roundup was a substantial cause in the development of the plaintiff’s non-Hodgkins lymphoma diagnosis. The case was a “bellwether”, which was designed to help the parties gauge how other juries may respond to similar evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the litigation.
In addition, throughout 2019, a number of other claims are scheduled to go before juries nationwide, including a multi-plaintiff trial involving more than 15 individuals that is set to begin in October. However, if Monsanto fails to reach Roundup settlements to resolve claims, they could face years of litigation and substantial verdicts as more evidence is discovered about the true risks associated with the weedkiller.