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Pesticides and Other Causes of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Updated on March 7, 2015

Autism Awareness Ribbon


Autism Spectrum Disorders

Several possible causes for ASD or "autism" have been theorized. Autistic diroders can rang in type and severaity from very low functioning, even near catatonia, to high functioning, wuch as in Aspberger's Syndrome. This latter condition has been explained by the reknowned researcher, Dr. Temple Grandin, who has it herself. She helps design living spaces not only for lifestock, which are her speciality, but for himan families as well.

In the 1980s, new treatments for some clients at the more withdrawn end of the ASD spectrum consisted of therapists cradling and embracing the affected children at a treatment facility until these children were able to tolerate the feeling of close touch. Another new treatment included filtering out "static" noises from the hearing spectrum -- When these noises were eliminated through sound therapy, the child no longer had autistic symptoms, which is a rare occurrence in ASD cases. The static among th esounds seems almost like a severe case of tinnitus, comparatively.

Since 1990, much professional and amateur research has uncovered multiple possible causes for "autism" overall. These causes include the intake of heavy metals, Electromagnetc Radiation (EMR), the presence of mental disorders in parents, certain cholesterol measures, and certain levels of testosterone present in the womb around the child prior to birth. Advanced age of the father has also shown a potential correlation with increased risk for "autism." Addiitonal research is necessary and many scientific, medical and public individuals seem to agree that no specific cause can be concretely pinpointed. Each child with ASD is different in symtoms and perhaps causes.

Some contemporary research into Autism Spectrum Disorders includes: .


Clinical Trial Number NCT00090428. Study: Autism and a Gluten- and casein-free diet


  • Children 30 - 54 months old, diagnosed with Autism or PPD
  • Participation in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) classes for at least 4 months
  • A score higher than 30 on the Mullen Early Learning Scale
  • Ability to maintain a gluten- and casein-free diet during the study
  • Residence in the Rochester NY area

Some Summary Results

  • "...the appearance of a possible diet-related autism phenotype seems to be emerging supportive of a positive dietary effect in some cases.
  • Further debate on whether such dietary intervention should form part of best practice guidelines for autism spectrum conditions (ASCs) and onward representative of an autism dietary-sensitive enteropathy is warranted."

Newer Evidence Points to Pesticides

We know that chemical pesticides are not good for humans and animals, but a California study released in mid-2014 shows that pregnant women living near fields of pesticide-laden crops are more likely than average to bear children that will be diagnoses on the Autism Spectrum.

Kathryn Doyle reports through Reuters Health this quote:

“Ours is the third study to specifically link autism spectrum disorders to pesticide exposure, whereas more papers have demonstrated links with developmental delay.” - Lead Author Janie F. Shelton, UC Davis.

Researchers find that pesticides adversely affect signals sent between the cells of the nervous system. This might be responsible for several types of developmental delay, not only autism spectrum disorders.

Pesticide Drift


Pesticides May Cause Low IQ

Long standing research found previously that exposure to chemical pesticides the womb is related to low IQ in the infant. Low IQ suggests difficulties in learning and in performing in an academic environment.

Some preventive remedies include removing ll pesticide use form the home while a woman in residence is pregnant. This piggy backs on the practice of not handling cat litter while pregnant in order to prevent exposure to toxoplasmosis.

The growing trend toward natural elimination of pests may gain momentum and adoption if pesticides are fully proven to cause autism disorders and developmental delays.

The PDDs

Taken from the DSM IV - TR of the American Psychiatric Association.

  • Asperger's Syndrome
  • Austistic Disorder
  • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder,
  • Rett's Disorder
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified

A Group of Disorders

Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PPD) are defined as 5 related disorders that include smptoms of

  • Decreased social interaction,
  • Difficulty in communication, and
  • Repetitive interests/behaviors.

Autism is the most frequently occurring of the 5 disorders and the body of literature as of the early 2010s show that at least 1 to 6 per 1000 individuals have one of the ASDs (ref: Natonal Insititute of Mental Health). NUMH feels that diagnoses have increased inprevalence since 1990 because of

  1. More advanced diagnostic tools, and
  2. Greater numbers of children being born with ASD.


Autistic Children Recognize Stereotypes Based on Race and Sex.

  • Authors: Lawrence Hirschfield of the New School for Social Research, Elizabeth Bartme of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and Sarah White and Uta Frith of UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience.
  • Interestingly, children with autism that cannot understand the mental states of others can still recogize stereotypes related to race and sex (gender). The researchers say that stereotypes do not rely on higher order attention or even attention to social stimuli. Stereotypes can be learned even in the face of damage to the "social brain."

Psychiatric Disorders in Parents as a Causal Link

Parental psychiatric disorders associated with autism spectrum disorders in the offspring.

  • Authors: Julie Daniels, Ph.D., PEDIATRICS and Hospital & Nursing Home Week. May 2008.

Parents of children that suffer from Autism Spectrum Disorders were twice as likely to have been hospitalized for a Severe Mental Disorder than were parents of other children. It had already been determined that autism was higher in families that had cases of other psychiatric disorders.

  • Mother and fathers with schizophrenia were twice as likely to have an autistic child.
  • Mothers with depression or personality disorders were more at risk for an autistic child, but not as much as if they had schizophrenia.

The sample size was adequate for this research - 1,237 children born between 1977 and 2003 with diagnoses of ASD at age 10; and over 30,000 control subjects without ASD.

Testosterone in the Womb

Cambridge University: Simon Baron-Cohen - Leading UK specialist in autism. 09/2007

A study of prevously observed children, now age 8 years, showed that in addition to one-on-one examination results, the mothers revealed vital information on a questionnaire about their children to result in an "Autism Spectrum Quotient".

The children had previously shown a physical/behavioral marker for autism, which was refusal to look adults in the eye at ages 1 year, 1.5 years, and 4 years. There was also a variety of testosterone levels around these 253 children as they were carried in the womb. The result was a statistically significant associaton between fetal testosterone exposure and autistic traits.

Additional research is required to reproduce these results.

Testosterone/Autism Study and Others

Genetic Defects

Institute of Child Health, London. David Skuse. 9/2003

  • Autism may be a genetically-linked disorder -- 10 males to every 1 female. In addition, a defective gene on the X chromosome impairs brain functions in the area that controls social interactions (the amygdala).This is a major factor in Autism Spectrum Disorders. Girls that have Turners Syndrome (missing 1 X chromosome out of the 2 usual) are at high risk for autism.

Scientific Ameician - Broken Mirrors: A Theory of Autism. 2006

  • Authors: Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Lindsay M. Oberman
  • During the 1940s the American psychiatrist Leo Kanner and the Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger independently discovered a developmental disorder called Autism. Mirror neuirons in the brain, when dysfuctional, may be a cause of autism.
  • Less Well-Known Symptoms: Many with autism cannot understand metaphors or they may take them literally (ESL students may seem "autistic" in that sense). They cannot mimic actions, such as learning to dance or perform martial arts through visually learning. They hate certain sounds that don't bother others.
  • Autistic children show abnormalities in the cerebellum, a part of the brain involving complex voluntary muscle movements. These abnormalities may be due to a defective gene.

European Psychiatry: Catatonia in autism: Etiology, incidence and treatment. 4/2008

  • Author: L E Wachtel
  • Catatonia has been found in 11% -17% of the autistic.
  • Recommended treatments range from themedication lorazepam to ECT (electroshock therapy.)
  • A genetic link is felt to be the cause.

Best Practices in the Assessment of Autism (57 minutes)

Vaccines and Mercury

US Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. 5/2004

  • Autism is not caused by either the childhood measles- mumps-rubella vaccine or the mercury-based vaccine preservative thimerosal. This result was based on tests of vaccines and recipients from 2001 - 2004 in the US, UK, Denmark, and Sweden.

Dr. Julie Gerberding stated on CNN. 3/29/2008

  • "If a child was immunized, got a fever, had other complications from the vaccines, and is pre-disposed with the mitochondrial disorder, it can certainly set off some damage.... Some of these symptoms can be symptoms that have characteristics of autism."
  • This seems to say that vaccines are guilty in some cases.

Autism: Understanding and Treatment

Real Information That Can Help

The Science and Fiction of Autism

  • Author: Laura Schreibman. Harvard university Press. 2005;

Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Director of the Autism Research Program at the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Schreibman disproves the vacine theory and other misinformation and gives hiop in a combination nature-nurture etiology and management protocols.


  • Introduction 1
  • 1 Critical Evaluation of Issues in Autism 6
  • 2 Characteristics of Autism 26
  • 3 Diagnosis and Assessment 49
  • 4 What Causes Autism? 75
  • 5 Are There Core Deficits in Autism? 109
  • 6 Developing Treatments That Work 132
  • 7 Are Other Treatments Effective? 169
  • 8 Miracle Cures or Bogus Treatments? 202
  • 9 Early Intervention, "Recovery," and "Best" Treatment 228
  • 10 Educate Autistic Children! 253
  • Epilogue 267
  • Notes 269
  • Index 289

Comments, Experiences & New Findings

Submit a Comment
  • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

    Patty Inglish MS 

    5 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

    In June 2014, the third study that links chemical pesticide exposure during pregnancy and Autism Spectrum Disorders in children was released. Additional research is recommended, along with elimination of pesticides fro the home. Pesticide Drift into the air from fields is still a problem to solve.

  • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

    Patty Inglish MS 

    7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

    New information is avaiable about ASD and management techniques. Latest media attention was given via Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in Medfors, Oregon in October 2011.

  • chrissyks profile image


    9 years ago from Central Indiana

    Lots of good information.

    I wrote a hub on pottytraining children with autism.

  • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

    Patty Inglish MS 

    11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

    Greetings! Emotion flashcards are available online (some can be printed out), along with posters displying many emotions so that individuals can compare the facial expressions and note the differences. Search google for "emotion flashcards." Best success!


  • AutismInsideOut profile image


    11 years ago from Southern California

    wow Great hub! Very informative and well written. Great Job!

  • Georgiakevin profile image


    11 years ago from Central Georgia

    As a teacher who works with students in the Autism spectrum I am always looking for better ways to reach them and help them. Your article was well written. Now if I could just get some of those emotion cards next year will be easier.


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