Infamous Pesticide Linked with Risk of Developing Autism in Children


Perhaps there are some among you that hear about DDT (or dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane). Apparently, this notorious pesticide can cause serious harm. When exposed to DDT, unborn babies have a high risk of developing autism, supposedly.

The history of DDT

The toxic agent was heavily used in the previous century, until the ‘60s came and this pesticide was famously criticized by people for its environmental damage. Since then, DDT became banned gradually all-around the globe. However, there are still some countries that still prefer to use it, despite all the available data that speaks against it.

The study

Researchers from Columbia University used collected data from Finnish soon-to-be mothers in order to study autism at a prenatal level. The results were as follows. There were 778 children born with this disease, born in the period between 1987 and 2005. They matched their blood samples with those of their mothers. Then, another 778 control groups were selected for ulterior comparison.

There were tests regarding the presence of DDT or p.p’-DDE (the metabolite formed by DDT as it breaks down in our bodies – p,p’-dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethylene) in those blood samples. Besides this, there were tests for finding PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) as well.

The results

When they looked at the results, scientists found that there were no PCBs present in those blood samples, so no relation between these substances and autism. However, there were results which indicated a high risk of developing autism if the mother is among the top 25 percent of serum DDE levels.

Being among the lowest 75% of serum DDE levels didn’t means that you were safe because your baby would still have a great chance of developing an intellectual disability. DDT was first used against mosquitoes on a large scale, from crops to kitchen benches. Luckily, more and more countries started to ban it.


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