Study links pesticide to ADHD in children

Using data from a national survey, researchers find that higher levels of malathion detected in urine is associated with a higher risk of the disorder. Food may be a factor.

Children with higher levels of the pesticide malathion in their urine seem to be at an increased risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, researchers reported Monday.

Several previous studies have linked neurodevelopmental and behavioral disorders such as ADHD to exposure to pesticides, but generally in children of farmworkers and others exposed to abnormally high levels of the chemicals.  The new study is the first to focus on “a population sample more representative of the United States, and not one selected for being at high exposure,” said epidemiologist Marc G. Weisskopf of Harvard University’s School of Public Health, the senior author of the paper in the journal Pediatrics.

The study is “interesting and provocative … because the levels of pesticide are very low,” said epidemiologist Brenda Eskenazi of UC Berkeley, who was not involved in the research. “We need to build up a body of evidence [linking pesticides and neurobehavioral development], and we are building it.”

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