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Common Pesticide Found in Many Fruits and Vegetables Linked to Increased ADHD Risk in Children Featured

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 The study on pesticides and health reports, however, that there is no evidence that organophosphate pesticide exposure can actually cause ADHD.

Pesticide Effect on Health

Pesticides effects on humans are damage to the nervous system, reproductive system and other organs, disruption of hormone function, immune dysfunction and developmental and behavioral abnormalities.

Organophosphates Widely Used

"Organophosphates are one of the most widely used pesticides in agriculture to protect crops and fruits and vegetables," according to lead author Maryse Bouchard, Ph.D., adjunct researcher, department of environmental and occupational health, University of Montreal and Sainte-Justine University Hospital Centre, Canada. "For children, the major source of exposure would be the diet -- fruits and vegetables in particular."pesticides-sign

Organophosphate pesticides account for approximately half the insecticide use in the U.S. and are applied to many conventionally grown foods important in children’s diets.

In 2008, the USDA conducted tests that found malathion (one of the 40 organophosphate pesticides) residues in 28% of frozen blueberries, 25% of strawberries, and 19% of celery.

Previous Pesticide Exposure Research Links Pesticide Exposure During Pregnacy to Developmental Problems in Offspring

Previous research has shown an association between both prenatal and postnatal organophosphate exposure and developmental problems in young children.   But most prior studies have focused on excessive rather than average exposure to organophosphates.

Pesticide – ADHD Study

The researchers analyzed data on pesticide exposure and ADHD in more than 1,100 American children aged 8 to 15.

Children with higher pesticide levels in their urine were more likely to have ADHD, according to the researchers.

"The analysis showed that the higher the level of exposure [as measured by metabolites in the urine], the higher the odds of having ADHD," said Bouchard.

Just how might pesticides harm brain development? According to the authors, high doses of organophosphates pesticides may inhibit acetylcholinesterase, a nervous system enzyme. Lower doses of organophosphates pesticides may affect different growth factors and neurotransmitters.

Do not Lose the Veggies

Certainly parents and children shouldn't swear off fruits and veggies, said  Bouchard, However, "I think it's safe to say that we should as much as possible reduce our exposure to pesticides," says Bouchard.

“That would meaning going organic, buying at farmers' markets and washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consuming them.”

The findings, if replicated, may provide another clue into the causes of ADHD, a condition which affects three to seven percent of school-aged children, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


  • Bouchard MF, Bellinger DC, Wright RO, et al. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate Pesticides. Pediatrics 2010;125:e1270–e1277
  • Maryse Bouchard, Ph.D., adjunct researcher, department of environmental and occupational health, University of Montreal and Sainte-Justine University Hospital Centre, Canada;
Last modified on Friday, 28 June 2013 09:02
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