Washington | Using airplanes to spray anti-mosquito pesticides may increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder and developmental delays among children, scientists, including one of Indian-origin have found. Researchers, including Vignesh Doraiswamy from Pennsylvania State University, identified a swampy region in New York where health officials use airplanes to spray pyrethroid pesticides each summer.
The pesticides target mosquitos that carry the eastern equine encephalitis virus, which can cause swelling of the brain and spinal cord. They found that children living in areas in which aerial pesticide spraying has taken place each summer since 2003 were about 25 per cent more likely to have an autism diagnosis or documented developmental delay compared to those areas with other methods of pesticide distribution, such as manually spreading granules or using hoses or controlled droplet applicators.
Other studies have already shown that pesticide exposure might increase a child’s risk for autism spectrum disorder or developmental delay, said Steven Hicks, from Pennsylvania State University. Our findings show that the way pesticides are distributed may change that risk.
Preventing mosquito-borne encephalitis is an important task for public health departments, Hicks said. Communities that have pesticide programmes to help control the mosquito population might consider ways to reduce child pesticide exposure, including alternative application methods, he said.
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