Pesticides tied to ADHD in children in U.S. study

Mon May 17, 2010 7:35pm EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Children exposed to pesticides known as organophosphates could have a higher risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a U.S. study that urges parents to always wash produce thoroughly.

Researchers tracked the pesticides' breakdown products in children' urine and found those with high levels were almost twice as likely to develop ADHD as those with undetectable levels.

The findings are based on data from the general U.S. population, meaning that exposure to the pesticides could be harmful even at levels commonly found in children's environment.

"There is growing concern that these pesticides may be related to ADHD," said researcher Marc Weisskopf of the Harvard School of Public Health, who worked on the study.

"What this paper specifically highlights is that this may be true even at low concentrations."

Organophosphates were originally developed for chemical warfare, and they are known to be toxic to the nervous system.

There are about 40 organophosphate pesticides such as malathion registered in the United States, the researchers wrote in the journal Pediatrics.

Weisskopf said the compounds have been linked to behavioral symptoms common to ADHD -- for instance, impulsivity and attention problems -- but exactly how is not fully understood.

Although the researchers had no way to determine the source of the breakdown products they found, Weisskopf said the most likely culprits were pesticides and insecticides used on produce and indoors.   Continued...

<p>A plane disperses pesticide over parts of New Orleans, Louisiana, September 13, 2005. 	 REUTERS/Brian Snyder</p>