Finally some hopeful news to mitigate the risk of pesticides for pregnant women. Researchers studying pesticide-related autism risks have discovered that folic acid just might mitigate the risk of children developing autism from exposure to pesticides from the food and environment.
Researchers at UC Davis and other institutions have shown that mothers who take recommended amounts of folic acid around conception might reduce their children’s pesticide-related autism risk.
“Folate plays a critical role in DNA methylation (a process by which genes are turned off or on), as well as in DNA repair and synthesis. These are all really important during periods of rapid growth when there are lots of cells dividing, as in a developing fetus. Adding folic acid might be helping out in a number of these genomic functions.”
–Dr. Rebecca J. Schmidt, primary researcher and assistant professor, Department of Public Health Science
In the study, children whose mothers took 800 or more micrograms of folic acid (the amount in most prenatal vitamins) had a significantly lower risk of developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) — even when their mothers were exposed to household or agricultural pesticides associated with increased risk.
“Mothers [to be] should try to avoid pesticides. But if they live near agriculture, where pesticides can blow in, [recommended amounts of folic acid] might be a way to counter those effects.”
-Dr. Rebecca J. Schmidt, primary researcher and assistant professor, Department of Public Health Science
While folic acid did reduce the associated risk of a child developing autism, it did not entirely eliminate it.
Rebecca J. Schmidt, Vladimir Kogan, Janie F. Shelton, Lora Delwiche, Robin L. Hansen, Sally Ozonoff, Claudia C. Ma, Erin C. McCanlies, Deborah H. Bennett, Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Daniel J. Tancredi, and Heather E. Volk
Environmental Health Perspectives, September 2017 | Volume 125 | Issue 9 | doi:10.1289/EHP604