RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—A pregnant mother's pesticide exposure could be more damaging to the child than the child's actual exposure once he or she is born, according to new research. A new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that an expectant mother's exposure to a specific class of pesticides used in food production can increase the child's odds of developing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) down the line, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. This latest study comes on the heels of another study linking pesticides levels commonly found in food to ADHD in kids.
THE DETAILS: In the new study, researchers looked at pregnant women from the Salinas Valley in California, a region of intense agriculture where more than half a million pounds of pesticides are applied each year. They monitored the women's urine during pregnancy to detect pesticide breakdown components, and then followed up by monitoring children's pesticide levels, screening the kids for ADHD at ages 3 and 5, and interviewing mothers to find out if they reported ADHD symptoms in the kids.
Scientists were particularly looking for exposure to organophosphate pesticides, a class of chemicals that work to disrupt the nervous systems of insects by tampering with neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters affected by the pesticides include some that are critical for brain development, attention, and memory in humans.
Researchers found that as the amount of organophosphate breakdown materials in the urine of pregnant women increased, so did the chance that the child would score in line with a clinical ADHD diagnosis. In fact, there was a 500-percent increase in attention problems in the 5-year-old children of the women who had had the highest pesticide levels during pregnancy. High levels of urinary pesticides in 5-year-olds correlated to a 30 percent higher chance of ADHD, meaning that prenatal exposure could have even more serious effects than childhood exposure when it comes to attention problems.
Also of note: Researchers discovered that the appearance of ADHD was more prominent when kids hit 5 years old when compared to the incidence at 3 years old, and was more prominent in boys than girls.