ADHD & Pesticide Exposure Linked?

Sheri Reed

child holding blueberries hands
Flickr photo by Pink Sherbert Photography
There may be a connection between exposure to high levels of pesticides and the development of ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), says a new study published online today in the journal Pediatrics.

Led by Maryse Bouchard, PhD, the "Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate Pesticides" study focused on 1,139 children, 8 years to 15 years, and measured pesticide levels in urine samples.

Unfortunately, as you might guess, pesticide exposure for most children comes straight from their diets.

"Approximately 40 organophosphate pesticides are registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency for use in the United States. In 2001, 73 million pounds of organophosphates were used in both agricultural and residential settings. The Environmental Protection Agency considers food, drinking water, and residential pesticide use important sources of exposure."

Frozen blueberries, strawberries, and celery have been found to contain levels of the pesticide organophosphate malathion. 

Also, "children are generally considered to be at greatest risk from organophosphate toxicity, because the developing brain is more susceptible to neurotoxicants and the dose of pesticides per body weight is likely to be larger for children."

The outcome of the study "Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate Pesticides" asserts that organophosphate exposure, at levels common among US children, may contribute to a diagnosis of ADHD.

When interviewed by Time magazine, Dr. Bouchard suggested that "concerned parents try to avoid using bug sprays in the home and to feed their children organically grown fruits and vegetables, if possible." Otherwise, parents should be careful to scrub all produce to reduce residue. While pesticide-free fruits and greens may be more costly, Bouchard says they may be worth the price in terms of future health.

Hmm, those high-priced organic blueberries are looking pretty worth it right about now.

What do you think about these findings? Will you change your family's diet now that you've heard these results?

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