Study links pesticide exposure to ADHD in kids

May 18, 2010 in Nutrition for Children and Teenagers, Nutrition Topics in the News

Study links pesticide exposure to ADHD in kids
Harvard researchers are reporting that children exposed to pesticides may be at a greater risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Researchers tracked the breakdown of pesticides in kids' urine and found those with higher-than-average levels of pesticide byproducts were about twice as likely to have ADHD as kids with undetectable levels.

For the study, researchers interviewed the parents of more than 1000 kids between the ages of 8 and 15.  About one in ten children met the criteria for ADHD.

After accounting for factors such as gender, age and race, researchers found the odds of having ADHD rose with the level of pesticide breakdown products.

For a 10-fold increase in one class of those compounds, the odds of ADHD increased by more than half.  For the most common breakdown product, called dimethyl triophosphate, the odds of ADHD almost doubled in kids with above-average levels compared to those without detectable levels.

While researchers admit the compounds seem to be linked to behavioral symptoms common to ADHD, including impulsivity and attention problems, the exact link is not fully understood.

Although the researchers had no way to determine the source of the breakdown products they found, they suspect the most likely culprits were pesticides and insecticides used on produce and indoors.

While further studies are needed, researchers urged parents to be aware of what insecticides they were using around the house and to wash produce well to limit exposure.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

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