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ADHD triggered by pesticides?

May 17th, 2010

From Green Right Now Reports

study published in Pediatrics today points to pesticides as a possible cause of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The study’s team of academic researchers sampled the urine of 1,139 kids and found that those with the highest pesticide residues in their urine from organophosphate pesticides also were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. Of the sample, 119 of the children had been diagnosed with ADHD, which is in line with the American population, where nearly 1 in 10 kids has been diagnosed as having ADHD.

“These findings support the hypothesis that organophosphate exposure, at levels common among US children, may contribute to ADHD prevalence,” the scientists wrote.

Organophosphates are a type of pesticide commonly used on fruits and vegetables. Organophosphates include malathion, used industrially and in home gardens as well as in mosquito control.

The researchers, supported by Canadian and U.S. government grants, said more review was needed before the link could be fully explained. The sampling looked at a single point in time, leaving many questions unanswered about the role of continued exposure and the levels of exposure that would alter brain chemistry. Longitudal studies are needed, with multiple urine samplings over time, they said.

Among their findings:

  • There was a strong “association” — a 55% to 72% increase in the odds of ADHD for a 10-fold increase in DMAP concentration [a metabolite that indicates exposure to certain organophosphates] depending on the
    criteria used for case identification”.
  • “Several biological mechanisms might underlie an association between organophosphate pesticides and ADHD. A primary action of organophosphates,
    particularly with respect to acute poisoning, is inhibition of acetylcholinesterase,” according to the report. Acetylcholinesterase is needed for healthy synaptic messaging in the brain. Or put another way, the same neurotoxic effects deliberately aimed a pests in agricultural fields and on lawns, could be creating brain chemistry disruption in children inadvertently exposed to these chemicals.

Just as with other toxics, studies have found that genetics can play a role in how susceptible an individual is to a certain pesticide or toxic chemical, as well as finding that kids can be far more sensitive to chemical exposures than adults.

CropLife America, a national association that represents pesticide manufacturers, issued a statement to ABC News concerning this story. The statement noted that ADHD is “a serious disorder” and that CropLife America “fully supports continuous study to help better understand its cause.”

“However, our review of the published journal story in Pediatrics, which makes summary of the study, leads us to believe much more research is needed to ascertain if there is a direct link between exposure to organophosphate pesticides and the development of ADHD in children,” CropLife America said.

Don’t want to wait for the definitive answer?

Consumers can reduce their pesticide expose by:

  • Buying organic produce, especially berries and certain soft-skin fruits that tend to absorb pesticides. Find out which conventionally grown foods are most likely to contain pesticide residues in the Environmental Working Group’s recent re-release of the “Dirty Dozen”.
  • Using organic control measures to reduce pests on their lawn and gardens
  • Making sure your city or county is not using malathion to control mosquitoes, but using natural larval control methods instead.
  • Using a water filter for drinking and cooking water

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