Agricultural Pesticides

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This paper offers a detailed critique of the article entitled Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Prenatal Residential Proximity to Agricultural Pesticides also known as the CHARGE study. The journal was published by the American journal of medicine and healthcare. This article was authored by multiple authors in a concerted effort to investigate the exposure to agricultural pesticides and its effects during prenatal development. These authors were, Janie F. Shelton, Estella M. Geraghty, Daniel J. Tancredi, Lora D. Delwiche, Rebecca J. Schmidt, Beate Ritz, Robin L. Hansen and Irva Hertz-Picciotto (Shelton et la, 2014).

The environmental health topic of the researchers of this article was the effects of the exposure to agricultural pesticides on prenatal development of the children. They wanted to examine whether there was a link between proximity to agricultural pesticides and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) as well as developmental delay (DD) during childhood. The main concern was with residential proximity to agricultural pesticides especially organophosphates, carbonates as well as pyrethroid insecticides (Roberts et al, 2007). The examination in the research dwelt so much on the effect of these agricultural chemicals to the development of the child during prenatal stages in mothers residing close to these chemicals.

The main research question of the research that the researchers tried to find an answer to was Is there an association between residential proximity to agricultural pesticides during pregnancy and autism spectrum disorders or developmental delay in children? the question guided the objectives of the research and in their investigation, the researchers were all along trying to establish evidence whether there was a link or not between the two variables in question. The study seeked to establish whether gestational exposure to pesticides can cause developmental disorders in neural development among children born of exposed mothers.

Scientific and Social Context of the Study

The research undertaken involved pregnant mothers and children born of mothers that were exposed to agricultural pesticides like organophosphates, carbamates, pyrethroid pesticides among others. A number of state organs and legal bodies were involved mainly in giving consent and other forms of support that enabled the investigation to be undertaken within the provisions of the law and regulations of the State of California where the experiment was carried out. Some of the agencies that were involved in the investigation of this research were National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the United States Environmental Agency, the UC Davis Division of Graduate Studies and the UC Davis Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute. These agencies came in handy to support the research by providing grants that went a long way in supporting the research investigation on the environmental health issue of concern.

In the investigation, the results brought a clear evidence of an association between gestational exposure to agricultural pesticides and neural developmental disorders in children with regard to developmental delay and autism spectrum disorder (Shelton et al, 2014). It came out evidently that most of the children diagnosed with symptoms of ASD and DD experienced exposure to agricultural chemicals because it was found that most of them lived close to fields where agricultural chemicals were used intensively. There was therefore no controversy for the hypothesis of the research was found to hold a lot of weight and was proved to be true by the results of the research.

From the children that were involved in the investigation, the researchers were able to offer explanations behind the cognitive and adaptive developmental issues in children and put clear that the neurodevelopmental problems might not just be due to hormonal imbalance during the prenatal development. They proved that environmental hazards played a bigger role in causing some of the DD and ASD conditions experienced in children especially those whose mothers were exposed to agricultural chemicals during their pregnancy (Rosas & Eskenazi, 2008). This therefore offered a different explanation with regard to neural developmental disorders.

With regard to the outcomes of these research study, the mothers that live close to farms or areas where agricultural chemicals are used intensively during their pregnancy face the risk of giving birth to children whose neural development is affected and therefore lag behind their normal counterparts with regard to adaptive and cognitive development. This research therefore targeted the vulnerable mothers by involving the mothers who lived in close proximity to agricultural pesticides and children who were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders as well as developmental delay where they researchers selected children from homes that have exposure to agricultural pesticides.

Summary of Materials and Methods, Results, Discussion and Conclusion

The researchers in this study used sample study which involved selection of mothers and children living in close proximity or in areas with exposure to agricultural chemicals. The investigation and collection of information involved diagnosis of the autism spectrum disorder in children that were seen to have had exposure during their prenatal development. The study also involved issuance of questionnaires to those mothers who had exposure to agricultural chemicals during pregnancy. Observations were made regarding how many pregnant mothers relocated from their residential areas during pregnancy to other safer areas far from the exposure of the agricultural chemicals. The design of the research was a case study where participants were recruited from those diagnosed with syndrome of ASD or DD in one of the regional centers of California Department of Developmental Services (DDS) (Stillerman, Mattison, Giudice & Woodruff, 2008). Geocoding was also used in determining the latitudes and longitudes of the residential places of the mothers that were part of the study. Measurement of exposure was done by determining how close to the agricultural chemicals the participating mothers lived during pregnancy (Eskenazi, 2006). Exposure was also looked at by close examination of the prevalently used chemical that these mothers were exposed to.

The findings of the research clearly indicated that there was a close relationship between exposure to organophosphates by pregnant mothers and the neural developmental disorders in children that are born by them. The main chemicals that were found to be causing autism spectrum disorder as well as developmental delay in children of exposed mothers were chlopyrifos, organophosphates and pyrethroids (Shelton, 2014). Pyrethroids were seen to cause disorders due to exposure three months before conception. Application of carbamates was seen to be of equal danger to organophosphates in causing developmental problems. The study therefore concluded that children of mothers that get exposed to agricultural chemicals during prenatal development are at increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders.

The results of this research study were indeed very significant due to the fact that the Carlifornia Department of Maternal Health Care can use the results to help and save many mothers by raising awareness based on the result of the study. Since the association between exposure and DD as well as ASD were scientifically proven, the citizens can use these facts to make sure that application of agricultural chemicals is done far away from pregnant mothers so as to avoid the effects of exposure to the unborn children.

To my opinion, the journal is a reputable source since the authors such as Shelton are well known for their massive work with regard to developmental health in human body. The methods that were used in the research presented in this article were appropriate since observation and diagnosis were used to supplement the results presented by the questionnaires which alone could not be very reliable because of the sincerity with regard to the responses. By designing the research as a case study, the research study sampled participants appropriately and targeted the population that was at risk of the environmental health problem. The selection of participants was based on the results of the diagnosis of the ASD and DD syndrome acoustic disorder (Rosas & Eskenazi, 2008). This eliminated any bias with regard to selection of those who participated in the research study. It was a case study and therefore the research concentrated on those living in close proximity to places of application of agricultural chemicals.

Limitations of the study

This research study was faced with a problem during selection of the participants due to selection of non autism children to participate in the study. Also, the study does not give recommendations or the way forward on how the effects of the exposure can be avoided or dealt with. This limitation was occasioned by the objectives of the research that did not slot in the need to find appropriate solution to the developmental disorders brought about by the exposure to agricultural pesticides.

Next step

The next step should now be to investigate how the effects of the agricultural pesticides on prenatal development of children can be mitigated so as to make sure that autism and developmental delay does not occur among the children of the mothers exposed to agricultural pesticides during pregnancy (Stillerman et al, 2008). This is because agriculture forms part and parcel of the people of California State and therefore the only way to deal with the environmental health problem is to find mitigation procedures to it. The precautionary principle can be applied by presenting the precaution of doing away with the pesticides instead of looking for ways to mitigate or reduce the effect of the exposure or even avoid the exposure to these chemicals. This is because of the great economic importance of use of agricultural chemicals in increasing yield and food for improved health of the people.


Eskenazi B, Marks AR, Bradman A, Fenster L, Johnson! C, Barr! DB, et al. 2006. In!utero exposure to dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and dichlorodiphenyldichloro ethylene (DDE) and neurodevelopment among young Mexican American children. Pediatrics 118(1):233241.

Roberts, E. M., English, P. B., Grether, J. K., Windham, G. C., Somberg, L., & Wolff, C. (2007). Maternal residence near agricultural pesticide applications and autism spectrum disorders among children in the California Central Valley.Environmental health perspectives, 1482-1489.

Rosas, L. G., & Eskenazi, B. (2008). Pesticides and child neurodevelopment.Current opinion in pediatrics, 20(2), 191-197.

Rull, R. P., Ritz, B., & Shaw, G. M. (2006). Neural tube defects and maternal residential proximity to agricultural pesticide applications. American journal of epidemiology, 163(8), 743-753.

Shelton, J. F., Geraghty, E. M., Tancredi, D. J., Delwiche, L. D., Schmidt, R. J., Ritz, B., & ... Hertz-Picciotto, I. (2014). Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Prenatal Residential Proximity to Agricultural Pesticides: The CHARGE Study. Environmental Health Perspectives, 122(10), 1103-1109.doi:10.1289/ehp.1307044

Stillerman, K. P., Mattison, D. R., Giudice, L. C., & Woodruff, T. J. (2008). Environmental exposures and adverse pregnancy outcomes: a review of the science. Reproductive Sciences, 15(7), 631-650.

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