Paying attention to pesticides

Pesticides may be tied to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, according to a new study in the Journal of Pediatrics. Researchers studied the breakdown products of pesticides known as organophosphates in the urine of 1,139 U.S. kids ages 8 to 15. They found that those with high levels were nearly twice as likely to develop ADHD as those with undetectable levels. The children were part of the general population—not, say, children of farmworkers—and their exposure levels were meant to reflect those of the average American kid. Researchers said they didn’t know the exact source of the organosphosphates but that they likely came from pesticides used on produce and indoors.

Other recent studies have also linked organosphosphates to behavioral problems and delayed learning in children, as well as to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.

Organophosphates were originally developed for chemical warfare but are now commonly used as pesticides in conventional agriculture. The study referenced, for example, a 2008 report showing that 28 percent of frozen blueberries, 25 percent of strawberries, and 20 percent of celery carried one type of organophosphate.

Before you stop feeding children fruits and vegetables, which would have other serious health effects, there are ways to reduce exposure, such as washing produce well, buying more organic and seeking out natural forms of pest removal in and around the home.