Banned Pesticide May Be Doubling Autism Risk in Babies
By Heather Callaghan, Editor
Most people don’t know that the pesticide DDT is still with us.
Most people don’t know that it was created by the company formerly known as Monsanto, now absorbed by Bayer.
Did you know that DDT is still used to control mosquitoes in developing countries? That endometriosis and fibroids can be caused by DDE – a breakdown product of DDT? And that this colorless, tasteless substance known as dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethane still winds up in 2/3 of cream samples?
That’s because it doesn’t break down quickly and is still in the environment even though it was banned in the U.S. in 1972. DDT breakdown products have been found in 99% of the people tested by the CDC. Developmental exposure to DDT is especially hard on females, who are much more likely to have a higher slowed metabolism, obesity and diabetes risk later in life.
Monsanto manufactured the product from 1944 – 1954 until it stopped production for “economic reasons.” But it didn’t create the product. The process of creating DDT actually began in the late 1800s. Let’s not forget that DuPont and DOW also made DDT.
Its ability to persist began as a selling point since insects didn’t even need to eat food laced with DDT in order to die. DDT accumulates in fatty tissue and can travel long distances in the upper atmosphere.
As we reported yesterday, in a study of over a million pregnancies, researchers Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the Department of Psychiatry published results in American Journal of Psychiatry that they had found the first-ever biomarker evidence of a DDT-autism link.
From the press release:
Researchers identified 778 cases of childhood autism among offspring born from 1987 to 2005 to women enrolled in the Finnish Maternity Cohort, representing 98 percent of pregnant women in Finland. They matched these mother-child pairs with control offspring of mothers and offspring without autism. Maternal blood taken during early pregnancy was analyzed for DDE, a metabolite of DDT, and PCBs, another class of environmental pollutants.
The investigators found the odds of autism with intellectual disability in offspring were increased by greater than twofold for the mother’s DDE levels in the top quartile. For the overall sample of autism cases, the odds were nearly one-third higher among offspring exposed to elevated maternal DDE levels. The findings persisted after adjusting for several confounding factors such as maternal age and psychiatric history. There was no association between maternal PCBs and autism.
They said that although DDT and PCBs were widely banned 3o years ago, the slow breakdown causes exposure to chemicals “that are transferred across the placenta in concentrations greater than those seen in the mother’s blood.”
Lead author Alan S. Brown, MD, MPH said:
We think of these chemicals in the past tense, relegated to a long-gone era of dangerous 20th Century toxins,” says
Unfortunately, they are still present in the environment and are in our blood and tissues. In pregnant women, they are passed along to the developing fetus. Along with genetic and other environmental factors, our findings suggest that prenatal exposure to the DDT toxin may be a trigger for autism.
Essentially, the quarter of women who had the highest DDE levels were twice as likely to have a baby with a future autism diagnosis; with “the overall sample of autism cases, the odds were nearly one-third higher among children exposed to elevated maternal DDE levels.” (Psychcentral)
A similar, 2016 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that “…children born after being exposed to the highest levels of certain compounds of the [organochlorine] chemicals [ex. DDT] during their mother’s pregnancy were 80% more likely to be diagnosed with autism compared to those who had only been exposed to the very lowest levels of these chemicals.” (Source)
Breakthrough research in 2013 accidentally found that chemical exposure can be passed down through the DNA to future generations. This work spawned a new field of study called “transgenerational epigenetics.” Another epigenetic work found that multiple toxicants selectively target autism genes, and therefore, “The autism epidemic may be driven by multiple environmental pollutants via their effects on susceptibility gene products”
Another recent study found that DDT may raise the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
What Can We Do?
DDT and DDE are lipophilic compounds (love fat). It is stored in fat and is found the higher up you go on the food chain due to biomagnification. As much as people hate to hear it, the lower you go on the food chain, the less likely you are to continue being exposed to these organochlorines. Additionally, probiotics have been found to breakdown endocrine disruptors in the body.
Although this is bleak news, this is more proof that knowledge is power. No matter what anyone says, DDT is not good for you and me.
DISCLAIMER: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
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