A new study has shown that the aerial spraying of pesticides used to kill mosquitoes has caused an increase in autism amongst children in America.
According to a study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies, the use of pesticides to combat mosquito borne illnesses such as the Zika virus, has actually caused birth defects amongst the population.
Scientists observed a 25 percent increase in autism and developmental disorders in children who lived in areas where aerial spraying for mosquitoes has been used since 2003.
Researchers “identified a swampy region in central New York where health officials use airplanes to spray pyrethroid pesticides each summer. The pesticides target mosquitos [sic] that carry the eastern equine encephalitis virus, which can cause swelling of the brain and spinal cord,” reports the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Pyrethroids, synthetic chemicals used to kill flea and tics, may be linked to autism
“They found that children living in ZIP codes in which aerial pesticide spraying has taken place each summer since 2003 were approximately 25 percent more likely to have an autism diagnosis or documented developmental delay compared to those in ZIP codes with other methods of pesticide distribution, such as manually spreading granules or using hoses or controlled droplet applicators.”
Pyrethroids are manmade chemicals that structurally resemble pyrethrum, a naturally occurring toxin found in certain chrysanthemum flowers, discovered to have insecticidal properties in the 1800s, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry. Pyrethroids are more toxic to insects and mammals, and persist longer in the environment, than pyrethrum.
Children exposed to large amounts of pyrethroids may experience dizziness, headaches and nausea, as well as other more serious side-effects, including tremors, convulsions and loss of consciousness. The side-effects in adults are similar.
ATSDR says that there is no evidence that pyrethroids cause birth defects, however, animal studies have shown that the chemicals may harm the developing brain in “very young animals.”
Why aerial spraying for mosquitoes is ineffective and a threat to public health
The study results validate existing health concerns regarding aerial spraying, one of the more dangerous methods of chemical application due to the possibility of pesticide drift, which occurs when the wind carries potentially harmful chemicals beyond the intended target.
Aside from the potential health effects, some say aerial spraying is the least effective method of controlling mosquitoes. Experts say that aerial spraying or fogging eliminates only 10 percent of adult mosquitoes, according to the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia, a nonprofit established in 1985.
Because they’re further up the food chain, mosquito predators can be harmed more by aerial spraying than the insects themselves, thus increasing mosquito populations, it adds. “Data from a study in New York State published in the Journal for Mosquito Control found that after 11 years of insecticide spraying, the mosquito population had increased 15 times.”
Aerial spraying may also contribute to pesticide resistance in mosquitoes.
Using aerial spraying to kill mosquitoes carrying harmful viruses may be more harmful than the virus itself, says EHANS. Dozens of prominent scientists and physicians from Quebec warned in a letter more than decade ago that:
Indiscriminate spraying of pesticides, especially in heavily populated urban areas, is far more dangerous to human health and the natural environment than a relatively small risk of West Nile Virus … Ironically, such spraying is especially dangerous to those with impaired immunity for whose ‘protection’ such spraying is mainly being done. ..Those individuals who are most vulnerable in this chemical action against mosquitoes include children, pregnant women, the elderly, chemically sensitive and immuno-suppressed individuals, such as patients with AIDS and cancer, and people suffering with asthma and other allergies.
Mounting research ties autism to pesticide exposure
Scientists with AAP recognize that their findings build on existing research linking pesticides to autism. “Other studies have already shown that pesticide exposure might increase a child’s risk for autism spectrum disorder or developmental delay,” said study author Steven Hicks, MD PhD.
“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. Communities that have pesticide programs to help control the mosquito population might consider ways to reduce child pesticide exposure, including alternative application methods.”
Many pesticides are also endocrine mimickers, meaning that they mimic sex hormones in the body and affect an array of processes, including reproductive development. The correlation between endocrine mimickers and autism is documented in Helke Ferrie’s book Dispatches From the War Zone of Environmental Health, which reads as follows:
Colborn said, “these endocrine disrupters are trans-generational”, meaning that they cross the placenta, affecting fetal development in many different ways, ranging from retardation to autism and learning and behavioral problems.
Endocrine disrupters also affect genetically mediated timetables, so that cancers or infertility develop later in life.
U.S. oceanographer, Dr. Douglas Seba, who addressed the 34th annual conference of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine in Idaho held this year in October, told me that birth defects, infertility problems, and malformations of sex organs in wildlife have dramatically increased, primarily because of a potato pesticide, chlorothalonil.
He described consensus-based research that correlates planetary wind and rain patterns (which transport these pesticides in the far westwards) with the epidemiological patterns of thyroid problems, kidney failure, hypertension, and birth defects in humans and animals.