Pesticide Exposure during Pregnancy Increases the Risk of Autism and ADHD

Pregnant women and their developing children are especially vulnerable to chemical exposures. Finnish researchers recently found a link between pregnant mothers who were exposed to pesticides and having a son with autism. We already know that organophosphate pesticides interfere with neurodevelopment.

Our study on autism, published in 2015 demonstrated that mothers with high scores on the validated, 50-item chemical intolerance questionnaire—the QEESI—had triple the risk of having a child with autism, and more than double the risk of having a child with ADHD.

Clearly, it would be impossible to measure every chemical that mothers encounter, and that may place their children at risk. However, the QEESI may help researchers, doctors, and mothers determine the risk of autism and/or ADHD in the face of a wide array of common exposures. Women who ever wish to have a baby should be aware of their QEESI scores. This is vital information for parents as well as future parents, so that they can begin to exercise precautions as early as possible. For example, we advise parents to use integrated pest management (IPM) which involves baits, traps, and other methods that avoid volatile chemicals which can result in adverse health effects for some children. Below is a table taken directly from our 2015 study, with more helpful alternatives.

Instead of Using… Try Using…
Pesticides indoors or on lawns; mothballs Baits or traps to control bugs indoors (avoid attracting bugs by tightly sealing foods, including pet foods)
Paints, varnishes, glues, and polishes with high solvent content Paints with low solvent content, water-based finishes and glues (have these applied when you are away from home)
Bleach, ammonia, disinfectants, and strong cleaning products “Elbow grease,” soap and water, baking soda and vinegar
Scented products, perfumes, air fresheners, and incense Unscented cleansers, laundry detergent, fabric softeners, and cosmetics
Hair coloring, permanents, hair spray, or any aerosol product New haircut and unscented hair gel or styling products that do not require spraying
Dry cleaning, odorous soft plastic toys, or mattress covers Washable toys, bedding, and clothes
Odorous flooring (eg, vinyl, pressed wood, or particle board) or carpeting, which can also trap allergens Ceramic/stone tile or hardwood floors
Commercial foods/beverages that may contain pesticides or other questionable ingredients Organic foods and foods without additives or artificial colors
Plastic food containers Glass, stainless steel containers

-Dr. Claudia Miller