Kids with higher levels of a common pesticide found on fruit and vegetables had twice the risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) than children with less exposure, a nationwide study suggests, according to CNN/Health.com.
“These findings support the hypothesis that organophosphate (pesticide) exposure, at levels common among US children, may contribute to ADHD prevalence. Prospective studies are needed to establish whether this association is causal,” authors of the study wrote.
Previous studies linked exposure to pesticides to behavioral and cognitive problems in children. But those studies focused on communities of farm workers who were exposed to high doses of the pesticides. This study, published today in the journal Pediatrics, is the first to examine the effects of exposure in the population at large.
Researchers studied urine samples from 1,139 children between 8 and 15 years. By interviewing caretakers, they concluded that about one in ten met children met the criteria for ADHD, about the same percentage of the general population.
Once they accounted for factors such as gender, age and race, researchers found the odds of having ADHD rose with the level of pesticide found in the children’s urine.
Since Environmental Protection Agency regulations have eliminated most residential uses for the pesticides, the largest source of exposure for children is food, specifically commercially grown produce.
According to a 2008 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, detectable levels of pesticides are present in a large number of fruits and vegetables sold in the U.S..
The agency found that 28 percent of frozen blueberries, 20 percent of celery, and 25 percent of strawberries contained traces of one type of pesticide. Other types of pesticides were found in 27 percent of green beans, 17 percent of peaches, and 8 percent of broccoli.
Children with ADHD suffer from inattentiveness, hyperactivity and difficulty controlling behavior, according to the National Institutes of Health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 4.5 million children suffer from ADHD — or about 3-7% of children in the U.S.
Don’t stop your kids from eating fruits and vegetables, but you should consider buying organic or local produce. A thorough washing of fruit and vegetables can also help reduce the amount of pesticide exposure.
A 2008 Emory University study found that in children who switched to organically grown fruits and vegetables, urine levels of pesticide compounds dropped to undetectable or close to undetectable levels, according to The Associated Press.
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