More and more children are being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and being placed on medication to treat the symptoms. We already know the extreme dangers associated with these drugs, but what about getting to the root cause of the problem? Here is a look at a recent study that links pesticides to an increased risk of ADHD.
A study published in the May 17, 2010 issue of the journal Pediatrics has found that even low levels of pesticide residue found in the urine samples of North American children seem to be strongly associated with the development of ADHD.
In a joint effort between researchers at the University of Montreal and Harvard University, the scientists looked at the samples of 1,139 children, aged 8 to 15, throughout the US and Canada.
The link seems especially strong because the researchers carefully controlled for many health, life, and environmental factors. Maryse Bouchard of the University of Montreal said, “Adjusting for those things did not change the results very much: which indicates that there is very little potential for confounding in this association between pesticides and ADHD.”
4.5 million children have been diagnosed with ADHD in the US alone, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the rates are rising 3% every year.
Other studies have linked pesticide exposure to ADHD, but they’ve been done in children that are exposed to high levels of the pesticides, such as children of farm workers. This study, says Harvard University’s Marc Weisskopf, is the first to look at “a population sample more representative of the United States, and not one selected for being at high exposure.”
Bouchard and Weisskopf found that even at low exposures, the presence of the common pesticide byproduct dimethyl thiophosphate in the urine of children made them twice as likely to exhibit ADHD symptoms.
This byproduct was found in about 6 in 10 of the children and as Bouchard says, “It’s not a small effect. This is 100% more risk.”
For every tenfold increase in pesticide byproduct malathion in the urine; the risk of ADHD increased to 55%.
At least 73 million pounds of organophosphate pesticides are used in agricultural and residential settings in the US.
Organophosphates are designed to be toxic to the nervous system, says Bouchard, “That’s how they kill pests.”
The EPA has reduced the residential use of such pesticides, so it is believed that commercially grown produce is the largest source of exposure.
The study didn’t track long-term exposures to pesticides, but it did test for 6 different byproducts of 28 different pesticides. About 95% of the children’s urine sample showed at least one byproduct.
Columbia University’s Virginia A. Raugh conducted a 2006 study that found exposure to household organophosphates significantly delayed mental and motor development in children. These effects increased over time and fetal exposure made children much more likely to develop ADHD.
Bouchard says, “Organic fruits and vegetables contain much less pesticides, so I would advise getting those for children.” She adds, “National surveys have also shown that fruits and vegetables from farmer’s markets contain less pesticides even if they’re not organic. If you can buy local and from farmer’s markets, that’s a good way to go.”
Aside from this strong link to pesticide exposure, pressure on a child’s nervous system can also cause symptoms of ADHD.
Pressure on the upper cervical spine, caused by bad posture, birth trauma, falls, car accidents, etc. can increase the sympathetic response in the body–also known as ‘fight or flight.’ This can cause ADHD-like symptoms and trouble focusing. The best sort of physician to seek out is a wellness chiropractor. They can evaluate the spine and remove pressure from that area.