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ASK THE EXPERTS: Q Can pesticides increase my child's risk for ADHD?


doi: 10.1097/01.NNN.0000389997.48835.0c
DEPARTMENTS: Your Questions Answered: ADHD

Answers to your questions about cluster headaches, acromegaly, pesticides and ADHD, and treatment for pediatric brain tumors.

Michael L. Goldstein, M.D., specializes in child neurology and practices with Western Neurological Associates in Salt Lake City, UT. He is also the former vice president of the American Academy of Neurology.

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Figure. D

A There are good reasons to be concerned that pesticides can increase the risk of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. A study published in the June 6, 2010 Pediatrics journal adds to a growing body of scientific literature that points to possible developmental problems in children associated with exposure to organophosphate pesticides. These insecticides kill insects by attacking their brains and nervous systems. The Pediatrics study found that there was a strong correlation between evidence of pesticide exposure (as measured by pesticide byproducts called metabolites) found in the urine of children and the occurrence of ADHD. In fact, researchers found that a tenfold increase in metabolites was associated with a 55 percent to 72 percent increase in the likelihood of ADHD.

The simplest way to reduce pesticide exposure is to thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables. Another way to reduce exposure is to consume fruits and vegetables that are grown without organophosphate pesticides. However, children are still exposed to pesticides in drinking water and the environment through the breakdown of chemicals used in both residential and industrial settings.

©2010 American Academy of Neurology