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Jun 1, 2010

Washington Post - Journal of Pediatrics Links Low Level Pesticides to ADHD in Children

The health section of the Washington Post ran an article on 1 June 2010 commenting on recent research published in the journal Pediatrics that concluded that even trace levels of chemicals and pesticides commonly used to produce fruits and vegetables may  increase the risk of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children. 

While the Washington Post article was written about the author's personal dilemnas in chosing between higher priced organic produce and the lower costing conventionally produced fruits and vegetables, it did address some new research issues.  Specifically, it covered details published in the Pediatrics article including how researchers at the University of Montreal and Harvard University analyzed the levels of organophosphate pesticide metabolites in the urine of 1,139 children between the ages of 8 and 15.  They concluded that close to 95% has one type of organophosphate in their systems.  "Those with the highest levels were 93 percent more likely to have received an ADHD diagnosis than children with none in their system. Those with above-average levels of the most common organophosphate byproduct -- they made up a third of the whole group -- were more than twice as likely as the rest to have ADHD."

According to Maryse Bouchard, co-author of the article and a researcher at the University of Montreal's environmental and occupational health department, "it is certainly cause for concern ... as we are talking about very low levels of exposure . . . levels that were believed previously to be safe and harmless but which are now associated with a serious health risk."

Bouchard did note that these findings are not definitively conclusive and more research needs to be conducted.  In the opinion of Lynn Goldman, a pediatrician and professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, "this is well worth evaluation in other populations, over a longer period of time."

The Washington Post article notes that the Environmental Protection Agency responded to the ADHD study stating that it takes the research 'very seriously.'  In fact, since the study's data were collected (between 2000 and 2004), the EPA has eliminated "nearly all residential uses of organophosphate pesticides (e.g. lawn-care products and bug sprays) as well as some food uses to reduce risks to children."

One loophole to the EPA's reductions in levels comes from produce imported from foreign countries.  "The USDA's pesticide data program shows very clearly that there has not been a . . . reduction in the overall dietary risk in imported fruits and veggies, and in some cases the levels have actually gone up since 1996, including among grapes and peppers."

The conventionally produced fruits and vegetables produced with the use of high levels of chemicals include: celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines and sweet bell peppers.

For more see;

Butler, Carolyn. "Hidden hazards in fruits and veggies," Washington Post, Health Section, 1 June 2010.


Bouchard, Maryse F., Bellinger, David C., Wright, Robert O., Weisskopf, Marc G., "Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate Pesticides," Pediatrics, 17 May 2010.

About Margaret


CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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