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Pesticides use linked to ADHD

Local Ag officials 'not surpriised' at report findings

May 18, 2010
Local farmers are not surprised at a recent study revealing a link between pesticide exposure and ADHD.

To them, that's only the latest in a long string of revelations that point to one fact — continuing to use poisons on our food supply endangers our lives.

"I wouldn't put anything on anything I grow that I wouldn't put in my body," said Sturbridge Agriculture Commissioner Ed Cloutier. "They ought to ban them all."

The study, conducted by a team led by Harvard's Maryse Bouchard and published online Monday at www.pediatrics.org, found that children with higher levels of metabolites of organophosphate pesticides (that is, the chemical traces left after the pesticides partly break down in the body) were up to twice as likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD than children with less exposure. It notes there are 40 such pesticides currently in use in the U.S.; detectable concentrations of one of the best known, malathion, "were found in 28 percent of frozen blueberry samples, 25 percent of strawberry samples, and 19 percent of celery samples."

"Prenatal organophosphate exposure was associated with increased risk of pervasive developmental disorders, as well as delays in mental development at 2 to 3 years of age," the team wrote. "Postnatal organophosphate exposure has been associated with behavioral problems, poorer short-term memory and motor skills, and longer reaction times in children."

Only 6 percent of the study's children had one of the six metabolites the researchers were looking for, but they noted the concentrations were higher in those examined in 2003-4 than those in 2000 or 2001-2, "although not significantly." Higher concentrations were more clearly linked with greater likelihood of being diagnosed with the "hyperactive/impulsive ADHD subtype" than with the "inattentive" subtype, they wrote.

"A primary action of organophosphates, particularly with respect to acute poisoning, is inhibition of acetylcholinesterase, and disruptions in cholinergic signaling are thought to occur in ADHD," they wrote. "At doses lower than those needed to inhibit acetylcholinesterase, certain organophosphates affect different neurochemical targets, including growth factors, several neurotransmitter systems, and second-messenger systems."

See Wednesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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