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Does Pesticide Exposure Boost Risk of ADHD?

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Several months ago, Harvard researchers reported a link between pesticides and attention deficit disorder in children. The kids with higher levels of pesticide breakdown products in their urine were about twice as likely to have ADHD. Now a study from California demonstrates that pregnant women exposed to higher-than-average levels of pesticides are more likely to give birth to children who develop ADHD. The researchers measured pesticide metabolites in urine and found that the higher the levels in the mothers during pregnancy the greater the risk for attention deficit in the children, especially boys.

[Environmental Health Perspectives, online August 19, 2010]

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This study supposedly correlates 654 Mexican-American children from an unknown number of mothers living in the agricultural Salinas Valley and followed to ages 3½ (n=331) and 5 (n=323) years with" in utero exposure to organophosphate pesticides, well-known neurotoxicants" that have been "associated with neurobehavioral deficits in children."

Correlation does not equal causation!

First, the correlation was not significant for 3.5 year olds, but were significant for the 5 year olds. Was this therefore an effect of the kids in utero experience or their postnatal experience? And was the kids' ADHD the result of the organophosphate pesticides or something else?

Maybe kids from mothers with higher urinary pesticides and the postnatal kids of this study eat particular vegetables or other foods that actually cause ADHD? Maybe these folks are vegetarian and maybe kids of vegetarian mothers have higher levels of ADHD (perhaps because of some nutrient/vitamin/substance lacking in their diet)?? Maybe these mothers were anemic or had some other problem not examined in this study? Maybe the ADHD has nothing to do with the mother and everything to do with the kids? How are the kids with ADHD different from those without ADHA? Who really knows why this group of 5 year-old kids has higher levels of ADHD?

So many studies with correlations. So few scientific studies testing hypotheses. Where has all the science gone? Listen folks. Correlation is not causation!

If indeed this research proves true with additional confirmation what does this mean for farm workers who have suffered many known and unknown risks of pesticide use for decades both here and abroad?

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