Researchers have discovered an unusual link between the farming and autism spectrum disorders, as they found that autistic children are more likely to be exposed to farm workers than other children.
Key points:Researchers found that more than half of autistic children were exposed to dairy farm workers compared with the general populationSource: National Autism Network-AustraliaA national study into dairy farming and the autism spectrum revealed more than a quarter of autistic and their siblings were exposed at some point to farm labourers in Queensland and New South Wales.
Key findings:Dr Helen Faull from the Queensland University of Technology and Dr Robert K. Walker from the University of New South Sydney also found a strong link between autism and exposure to dairy farms, with more than one in five children and teenagers suffering from the disorder.
“We found that when we looked at the relationship between autism in the general community and dairy farming, we found that about one in four children in the overall community were also exposed to people working in the dairy industry,” Dr Fauell said.
“That was very surprising, and we were surprised by it, but we thought we’d found something interesting.”‘
This is just one of the many things that will be revealed’The researchers looked at more than 2,000 children aged five to 17 and found that around half were diagnosed with autism, with those with the condition more likely than those without it to have been exposed to the dairy workforce.
“In terms of how many of the people with autism were exposed in the labour force, we didn’t have that information, so it was really quite surprising that there was a higher proportion of people who were in the workforce,” Dr Walker said.
The research was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The researchers used data from Queensland’s National Autism Networks to analyse how dairy farm work affected the development of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
“We had these very small numbers of children, and they were just so small, that it was quite surprising to see that they had a link with the autism,” Dr Wootton said.
Dr Walker said the study revealed that exposure to workers in the agriculture industry had a strong and long-term impact on autistic children.
“It’s very surprising that we find this at all, and it’s a very small number of people with the disorder and they have a much greater impact on their development,” he said.
This study was funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC).
Topics:autism,environment,environmental-health,health,dairy-farms,tas,nsw,qldFirst posted March 04, 2020 10:51:24Contact Michelle JonesMore stories from New South Waverley