New study finds link between DDT byproduct and autism

A new study found that pregnant women who had elevated blood levels of dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE) were more likely to have a child with autism. DDE is a byproduct of the banned insecticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT).

The study looked at nearly 800 mothers from Finland who gave birth between 1987 and 2005 to children who were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Marc Weisskopf, a professor of environmental epidemiology and physiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who was not involved with the study, said in an August 16, 2018 Live Science article that the findings add to existing evidence that exposure to DDT is harmful.

“DDT is very long-lived in the body, so a woman with high levels may not be able to do much about it at the time she starts thinking of getting pregnant,” Weisskopf said. “For any individual mother, I would still stress that the absolute increase in risk from such exposure still certainly remains small. From a larger societal point of view, it is more evidence to try and limit DDT exposures overall.”

Read the Live Science article: Autism Risk May Increase If Child’s Mother Has High DDT Exposure