Could Pesticides Trigger ADHD?

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A team of scientists from the University of Montreal and from Harvard, have discovered that exposure to organophosphate pesticides could be associated with an increased risk of ADHD in children.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD as it is more commonly known, is characterised by hyperactive and impulsive behaviour, lack of focus, difficulty in concentrating or carrying out tasks, and a number of other symptoms, all of which can affect a child’s relationships with family and peers and can have a negative effect on a child’s academic performance as well.

This latest study involved over 1,100 children from the US, each of whom had their urine analysed for the presence of pesticides.

Those who had high levels of pesticides in their urine were found to be more than twice as likely to develop ADHD as those who didn’t have detectable levels of pesticides.

“Previous studies have shown that exposure to some organophosphate compounds cause hyperactivity and cognitive deficits in animals” says lead author Maryse F. Bouchard of the University Of Montreal Department Of Environmental and Occupational Health and the Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Center.

“Our study found that exposure to organophosphates in developing children might have effects on neural systems and could contribute to ADHD behaviours, such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.”

For those who don’t already know, Organophosphates are known to be toxic to the body’s nervous system and were originally developed as a nerve gas for chemical warfare so it’s not surprising they would have an effect on a young child.

The worrying thing is that a researcher on the study, Marc Wiesskopf of the Harvard School of Public Health told Reuters that the levels of pesticides don’t even have to be high for ADHD symptoms to develop.

“What this paper specifically highlights is that this may be true even at low concentrations” he told Reuters.

What the researchers don’t know as it’s the very first study to make a link between pesticides and ADHD, is whether the pesticides trigger ADHD symptoms or whether people with ADHD are more susceptible to the effects of pesticides. The pesticides incidentally can come from food, water or air.

If pesticides are implicated in ADHD, as they seem to be, it’s advisable for parents to make sure they thoroughly wash any non-organic fruits and vegetables, particularly berries, and to take care when using any pesticides in and around the home.

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