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Study Findings Indicate Common Pesticide May Increase ADHD Risk

Feb 3, 2015

A study published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) reports that exposure to the common household pesticide deltamethrin may increase the risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.

In the study, mice exposed to deltamethrin in utero and through lactation showed ADHD features including hyperactivity, attention deficits, impulsive behavior, and dysfunctional dopamine signaling in the brain, reports.

Lead author Jason Richardson, who is an associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, said the study offers strong evidence that exposure to pyrethroid pesticides, including deltamethrin may be a risk factor for ADHD. "Although we can't change genetic susceptibility to ADHD, there may be modifiable environmental factors, including exposures to pesticides that we should be examining in more detail," Richardson said. In addition to Rutgers, the study team included researchers from Emory University, the University of Rochester Medical Center, and Wake Forest University, reports.

The researchers found that male mice were affected more than the female mice and this finding is in line with observations of children with ADHD. ADHD behaviors in the mice persisted through adulthood, even after the pesticide was no longer detected in their system, according to Deltamethrin is considered less toxic than some other pesticides and it is used in the home, on golf courses, on lawns and vegetable crops.

The study drew data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The researchers analyzed health questionnaires and urine samples from 2,123 children and adolescents. They asked the parents if their child had been diagnosed with ADHD by a physician and they examined prescription drug histories to see if the child had a prescription for any of the most common ADHD medications, according to

The study found that children with higher pyrethroid pesticide metabolite levels in their urine were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. Young children and pregnant women may be more susceptible to harmful effects of pesticides, the researchers say, because their bodies do not metabolize the chemicals as quickly, according to

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