A study published today in the Journal of Pediatrics says that one type of pesticide commonly used on fruits and vegetables may be contributing to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD.
Researchers took urine from over 1,000 participants ages 8 to 15 and analyzed it for pesticides. 119 of the children had symptoms of ADHD. Those with the highest concentration of pesticides were more likely to have the disorder, according to the study.
"It's consistent with other studies that have looked at organophosphate pesticides and have found that exposure of children to organophosphates in early life can cause brain injury. This study builds on those other studies," said Dr. Philip Landrigan, chairman of the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
Children with ADHD suffer from inattentiveness, hyperactivity and difficulty controlling behavior, according to the National Institutes of Health, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.5 million children suffer from ADHD.
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While some doctors are taking this study seriously, they say additional research is still needed to confirm a connection to pesticides. Still, the study's researchers claim even tiny amounts of pesticides may affect brain chemistry in children.
The researchers claim the chemicals can have harmful effects on development, including behavioral problems and the ability to think and communicate.
"This study only provides a snapshot of one point in time of the association between pesticides and ADHD," Landrigan said. "The next step is we need to do a prospective study, a study that measures pesticide exposure very early in life ... then follow the children over five, six, seven years and see if the early exposure actually causes the disease."
Experts also warn any number of other factors could cause ADHD.
"There is no need here to panic. What we're talking about here is giving people info that will empower them to be educated consumers," Landrigan said.
"However, our review of the published journal story in Pediatrics, which makes summary of the study, leads us to believe much more research is needed to ascertain if there is a direct link between exposure to organophosphate pesticides and the development of ADHD in children," CropLife America said.
"All crop protection products are extensively reviewed by regulatory agencies before approval for market use. Many scientific factors are examined by government pesticide regulators, based on extensive laboratory testing, all of which are intended to guarantee safety for the environment and people, including children. The class of crop protection compounds that is the subject of this study has been approved and registered by the US EPA and when used according to the label, the EPA has determined it to be safe," CropLife America said.
For parents who want to limit their children's exposure to pesticides, here are a few tips:
Some experts recommend buying organic whenever possible.
Limit or eliminate the amount of pesticides in the home, such as bug spray.
Limit or eliminate the amount of pesticides and chemicals you use on your lawn and buy natural products whenever possible.
Buy fruits you can peel or fruit that has a hard exterior, such as an apple, that you can wash.
Experts say the fruits which tend to have the highest level of pesticides are strawberries, raspberries and peaches. These fruits have soft skin and the pesticides can get in the fruit and it becomes hard to wash them out.