Study Finds ADHD-Pesticide Link

We have long been following links between pesticides and herbicides and adverse medical effects across various demographics, including between pediatric cancer and common, household pesticides; pesticides and Parkinson’s disease; and pesticides and Alzheimer’s disease risks.

Now, CNN is reporting that children exposed to increased levels of specific pesticides known as <"">organophosphates are likelier to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than children who experience less exposure. Organophosphates are found in trace quantities on fruit and vegetables that are grown commercially.

Behavioral and cognitive problems in children have been seen in exposure to these pesticides; however, prior research only looked at the link in higher risk demographics, for instance, farmers. The emerging study is the first of its kind to review the link to the general population, noted CNN.

For this research, said CNN, the levels of pesticides byproducts was measured in the urine of 1,139 children nationwide. The researchers found that children who measured with higher-than-average levels of one specific and common “byproduct” had about twice the likelihood of being diagnosed with ADHD, wrote CNN. The study appears in the journal Pediatrics.

The pesticides, organophosphates, are specifically created to have lethal effects on the nervous system, said Maryse Bouchard, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and a researcher in the department of environmental and occupational health at the University of Montreal, said CNN. “That’s how they kill pests,” Bouchard added, quoted CNN. Organophosphates act on those brain chemicals that are closely linked to those implicated in ADHD, noted Bouchard, saying “so it seems plausible that exposure to organophosphates could be associated with ADHD-like symptoms,” quoted CNN.

Pesticides have been linked to other adverse health effects. Recently we wrote that the herbicide, Atrazine—a known endocrine disrupter—was linked to sex changes in many male frogs—from male to female—and the “emasculation” of three-quarters of the other frogs. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the pesticide under the Bush administration after it rejected earlier findings, said the SFGate previously. According to the SFGate, Atrazine’s worldwide ubiquity could likely be linked to a global decline in the frog and amphibian populations, which has confounded scientists and has also had impacts on world ecology.

EPA mandates, said CNN, have removed the majority of residential uses for organophosphates, such as for lawn care and termite removal, leaving the greatest exposure for this toxin in children to be found in food, such as commercially grown produce. Of note, although the entire population is believed to be similarly exposed, children have the greatest sensitivity to the chemicals, noted CNN.

The pesticides are found in detectable levels in much of the produce sold in this country, said CNN, taken from a 2008 report from a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) citation in the study. The link is not considered a small effect. For instance, the study found that “28 percent of frozen blueberries, 20 percent of celery, and 25 percent of strawberries contained traces of one type of organophosphate,” with other types “found in 27 percent of green beans, 17 percent of peaches, and 8 percent of broccoli,” said CNN.

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