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Organophosphate Exposure Linked to Attention Difficulties

by Josh Vincent — last modified Aug 30, 2010 07:18 PM
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A new study links prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides to attention deficit disorders in children.

The study prepared by the Center for Children’s Environmental Health Research of the University of California, Berkley has found that unborn children with exposure to organophosphate pesticides have increased odds of developing attention deficit problems.

Organophosphate pesticides are proven neurotoxicants and are designed to inhibit the nervous systems of insects, but the long term effects on children with prenatal exposure have not been significantly evaluated until this time.

This study followed 348 Mexican-American children living below or at the poverty line from pregnancy through age 5. Participants were identified between October 1999 and October 2000. Mothers were interviewed twice during pregnancy, after delivery and follow-ups were conducted when the children were 6 months, 1,2,3 and a half and 5 years old. In addition to direct reports from the mothers on their children’s ability to concentrate, each child was evaluated by direct assessment at both 3 and half and 5
years old as well as observation by a psychometrician at age 5.

In general, evidence of attention problems became increasingly pronounced as the children got older, possibly because behaviors linked to these difficulties are not considered atypical at earlier ages. Significantly, the study found that symptoms were more prevalent with boys than girls, while girls made up 53.2 percent of the group.

This study is an important step in understanding the influence of organophosphates on the neuro-systems of human beings. Between three and seven percent of children in the United States are estimated to have ADHD, where as eight and a half percent of children in this study were classified as demonstrating symptoms of ADHD.

While the researchers maintain that their study is not conclusive, their findings have certainly advanced the idea that exposure to organophosphate pesticides does affect the development of the nervous system, particularly a child’s ability to concentrate.

Read the full text of the study

Read the abstract in the EHP Journal

More information about organophosphate pesticides can be found by reading through our pesticide factsheets.