DAVIS (KCBS) — A new study from UC Davis released on Monday found that pregnant women living nearby fields where agricultural pesticides are used, have a higher risk of having a child with developmental delays.
California’s Central Valley, where most of the state’s 200 million pounds of agricultural pesticides are used, is also where the Department of Education reports that the autistic population has grown seven times since 2000.
Researchers from UC Davis mapped the addresses of nearly a thousand pregnant women and matched them to a database of where pesticides are applied. They found women living within a mile of those fields had a 60 percent higher chance of having children with autism.
“We mapped their homes at the time of pregnancy and then were able to link those addresses to a database on most of the commercial applications of pesticides in California,” Irva Hertz-Picciotto, professor of epidemiology at the Mind Institute at UC Davis, said.
Hertz-Picciotto acknowledged that it’s not easy for many to move to a safer location but that it may be worth it for those who have a choice.
“I think it’s an area that people do need to think about if they can make some changes,” she said.
A recent California Department of Public Health survey found 30 schools in Sacramento County and 18 in Yolo County were within a quarter mile of pesticide use.
Pesticides affect the nervous system of insects but can also have a debilitating impact on humans. The report was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
California is the top agricultural producing state in the nation, grossing $38 billion in revenue from farm crops in 2010.