New Study Discovers Link Between ADHD and Pesticide Exposure in Boys

First Posted: Jun 01, 2015 03:23 PM EDT

It turns out that a commonly used household pesticide may lead to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and young teens. Scientists have found a link between pyrethroid pesticide exposure and ADHD in boys.

"Given the growing use of pyrethroid pesticides and the perception that they may represent a safe alternative, our findings may be of considerable public health importance," said Tanya Froehlich, one of the researchers, in a news release.

Pyrethroids have often been considered a safer choice because they are not as acutely toxic as banned organophosphates. Animal studies, though, have suggested a heightened vulnerability to the effects of pyrethroid exposure on hyperactivity, impulsivity and abnormalities in the dopamine system in male mice.

In order to see whether this pesticide may impact humans, the researchers studied data on 687 children between the ages of 8 and 15. Pesticide exposure measurements were collected in a random sample of the urine of half of the children between the ages of 8 to 11 and a third of the children between the ages of 12 to 15. Then, the scientists determined whether or not the children had ADHD.

Scientists found that boys with detectable urinary 3-PBA, a biomarker of exposures to pyrethroids, were three times as likely to have ADHD compared with those without detectable 3-PBA.

"Our study assessed pyrethroid exposure using 3-PBA concentrations in a single urine sample," said Froehlich. "Given that pyrethroids are non-persistent and rapidly metabolized, measurements over time would provide a more accurate assessment of typical exposure and are recommended in future studies before we can say definitively whether our results have public health ramifications."

The findings are published in the journal Environmental Health.

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