Picture of Pesticide Action Network

Pesticide Action Network

Case against brain-harming pesticides grows

broccoli girl 600In a study released in Environmental Health Perspectives today, researchers from the University of California Davis MIND Institute further substantiated the links between pesticide exposure and learning disabilities in children. The study suggests that pregnant women living in closer proximity to applications of pesticides commonly applied to fruits and vegetables, are more likely to have children with autism and developmental delays.

The study follows a landmark report by the California Department of Public Health released in April that shows heavy use of highly hazardous pesticides within ¼ mile of hundreds of California schools and thousands of schoolchildren, and that Latino schoolchildren are more likely to attend schools near heavy hazardous pesticide use.

Over 1 million pounds of the neurotoxic organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos are applied in agricultural settings in California on everything from nuts and citrus to grapes and broccoli.

Emily Marquez, PhD, staff scientist at Pesticide Action Network released the following statement:

“This powerful new study shows that children born in close proximity to a class of pesticides called organophosphates are at increased risk for autism spectrum disorder and developmental delays. In particular, pregnant mothers living near organophosphate use were 60% more likely to see their children develop some form of autism.

The study adds to the growing body of evidence around the many pesticides with neurotoxic properties, which have the potential to harm the brain and nervous system. Pregnant women are especially susceptible to pesticides as the developing fetus is also exposed, potentially multiple times prior to birth.

Brain-harming pesticides like chlorpyrifos drift into the homes and schools of nearby residents after being applied to fruits, vegetables, and grains across the country —before ending up on food sold in grocery stores. However, this study was only possible due to publicly-accessible pesticide use reporting in California, the only state in the country that sufficiently tracks agricultural use of pesticides.

The data suggest that pyrethroid pesticides, previously thought by state and federal regulators to be a ‘safer’ class of chemicals, are also linked to autism and developmental delays in children of exposed pregnant mothers. Policymakers must not play a shell game with new classes of pesticides and must find and support truly safe alternative approaches to farming — that don’t rely on hazardous chemicals. 

The results of the study point to the need for increased no-spray buffer zones, restrictions on antiquated application methods, and dramatic use reduction as growers switch to more health protective and ecologically sound practices of pest control.”

For Immediate Release:  June 23, 2014

Contact: Paul Towers, 916-216-1082,

Picture of Pesticide Action Network

Pesticide Action Network

Pesticide Action Network is dedicated to advancing alternatives to pesticides worldwide. Follow @pesticideaction

Share this post