New York: Aerial spraying of anti-mosquito pesticides may increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder and developmental delays among children born in those areas, a study has warned. According to researchers, health officials should find alternative application methods to reduce the exposure of children to pesticides to reduce the risk factors. They found that children living in areas in which aerial pesticide spraying has taken place each summer since 2003 were approximately 25 percent more likely to have an autism diagnosis or documented developmental delay compared to areas with other methods of pesticide distribution, such as manually spreading granules or using hoses or controlled droplet applicators. "Other studies have already shown that pesticide exposure might increase a child's risk for autism spectrum disorder or developmental delay," said lead investigator Steven Hicks. "Our findings show that the way pesticides are distributed may change that risk. Preventing mosquito-borne encephalitis is an important task for public health departments," Hicks added. The pesticides target mosquitoes that carry the eastern equine encephalitis virus -- which can cause swelling of the brain and spinal cord. The team identified a swampy region in central New York where health officials use airplanes to spray pyrethroid pesticides each summer. The findings showed that a community's use of airplanes to spread pesticide each summer may pose a greater risk of autism spectrum disorder and developmental disorders among children born in theose areas. "Communities that have pesticide programs to help control the mosquito population might consider ways to reduce child pesticide exposure, including alternative application methods," Hicks added. The study was scheduled to be presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies 2016 Meeting in Baltimore, US.