Children of mothers who test high for pesticide exposure during pregnancy have an increased chance of developing ADHD by age 5, says a new study. The study found that the ADHD risk grew along with the quantity of pesticides in a mother’s system.
This is not the first time we’ve heard that pesticides are potentially harmful to a fetus in development. And pesticides have been tied to ADHD in older children. But this is new information about exactly how pesticides can affect the nervous system in utero.
So what can you do to protect your baby?
Experts say that these findings, while concerning, should not make pregnant women afraid to eat nonorganic foods. The risk of a diet devoid of nutritional benefits far outweighs the risks from pesticide exposure, according to doctors.
While the new results are “concerning and intriguing,” they need to be put in perspective, said Dr. Hyagriv Simhan, chief of the division of maternal-fetal medicine and vice chair of obstetrical services at MaGee-Womens Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
“I think it’s human nature to see something like this and completely freak out,” said Simhan. “But in absolute terms, the risk attributable to pesticide exposure is not that high. So, at this moment, there are no recommendations I’d make to an individual patient. This is something that needs to be looked at the societal policy level.”
The women in the study were living in an agricultural community, so they may have been exposed to higher levels of pesticides than the general population. More studies of women from a broader range of environments will need to be done to confirm whether risks exist from food alone without environmental exposure.