In a research paper recently publishedÂ in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the authors pose the possibility that ADHD is linked to pesticide poisoning [“Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate Pesticides,” Bouchard, Bellinger, Wright, and Weisskopf, Pediatrics, 2010 May 17].
Organophosphates were originally developed for chemical warfare, and they are known to be toxic to the nervous system. There are about 40 such pesticides registered with the Environmental Protection AgencyÂ in the U.S.
Exposure to organophosphate pesticides has been associated with adverse effects on neurodevelopment, such as behavioral problems and lowered cognitive functions. In this study, children with higher urinary levels of metabolites of these toxins wereÂ twice asÂ likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD than children with undetectable levels of exposure to these toxins.
In other words, there is reason to suspect that organophosphate pesticide exposure, at the low levels common among U.S. children, may contribute to the prevalence of symptoms that psychiatrists like to label as ADHD.
While no causal link is established, the findings warrant caution and further research. A major source of exposure is thought to be pesticide traces on fruits and vegetables, which should therefore be washed well before use.
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