ADHD risk may be tied to pesticide exposure before birth

August 21, 2010 - 0:0

Children whose mothers were exposed to widely-used pesticides such as malathion during pregnancy may be at increased risk of developing an attention disorder by age 5, a new study shows.

Researchers found that the risk of attention disorders rose with increasing levels of metabolites — substances created when pesticides break down — measured in a pregnant woman’s urine. For each tenfold increase in pesticide metabolites in a mom’s system, the risk of an attention disorder rose fivefold in her child, according to the report published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
The study results fall in line with a report published earlier this year by Harvard researchers who found that school-aged children exposed to organophosphates, one of the most common types of pesticides, were more likely than others to develop symptoms of attention deficit disorder.
Pregnant women worried about the findings should lower the risk to their fetuses by carefully washing fresh fruits and vegetables before eating them, suggests Brenda Eskenazi, a study co-author and director of the University of California at Berkeley’s Center for Children’s Environmental Health. Other experts suggest that pregnant women should eat organic fruits and vegetables when possible.
Eskenazi doesn't advise pregnant women to avoid eating fruits and vegetables, however. “I think the risk create may not eating them is far greater than the risk from the pesticides,” said Eskenazi, a professor of epidemiology.
That advice is echoed by experts not affiliated with the study.
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