Monday, May 17, 2010

ADHD and Pesticides: A Link?

There's been plenty of "everyday science" in the news ranging from volcanic ash, to oil spills, to this CNN article regarding a link between ADHD and a certain kind of pesticide called organophosphates.

ADHD? Organophosphates? Help!
Acronyms and confusing names are an easy way to turn off readers, so please allow me to lay it out for you.

ADHD: attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (a behavior disorder)
Organophosphates: pesticides that kill by poisoning an insect's nervous system.

Note that the prefix 'organo-' has nothing to do with the organic farming/living movement. In chemistry 'organo-' simply means 'made of carbon or with carbon.' So the term organophosphates means phosphates with carbon. (My PhD is in organic chemistry. This means I am a chemist that specializes in the chemistry of carbon; I'm not a 'hippie' chemist.)

What's the big deal?

The CNN article cites a scientific study published in the journal Pediatrics states that children (between the ages of 8 and 15 years) with higher levels of organophosphates in their urine are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. That's a scary thought!

To be fair the findings in this study don't outline a direct link between organophosphates and ADHD. There's no evidence of cause-and-effect.

Wait, just because there's no evidence, does it mean I'd feel OK feeding kids foods with trace amounts of pesticides? Heck no!!

My thinking is, we don't know what the link is between organophosphates and ADHD so we should stop using them until we understand it. What do you think?

-Dr. Dave

Posted via email from Dr. Dave Science

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