ADHD Pesticides Link?

Is there an ADHD Pesticides link? Obviously, nobody wants to come in close contact with pesticides, and in todays society there are great precautions to prevent this from happening. Pesticides have been in use for years and helped improve crop productivity and yield, and remove pests from our homes. Nobody wants to eat fruit or produce that has worms or has been half eaten by insects. Farmers cannot afford to let insects destroy their crops. That does not mean we can ignore safety precautions. Are there other safer ways to control pests? What does the research say about the ADHD pesticide link?

ADHD Linked to Pesticides Study

Two studies are often cited to answer this question and provide a cautionary ADHD pesticide link. In 2007 a California group published results of their study testing the results of exposure to organophosphates in young Mexican American Children. They reported a tentative ADHD pesticide link between exposure to pesticides and brain development, strongly recommending further prospective research.

No one argues the hazards of direct ingestion of pesticides. Organophosphate pesticides act by interfering with the transmission of signals in the nervous systems of insects when used as directed. They act the same way in humans who are over exposed to or ingest organophosphates, which can be fatal, which is why there are specific warnings on how to apply and handle these compounds. Those who have survived poisoning have had lasting neuological disorders. That being said, just how safe is our produce, and can any pesticidal residue be getting into our diets and causing an ADHD Pesticide link? The answer is "pretty safe" when used as directed, however we still must exercise caution.

In 2010 researchers from Harvard published their study Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate Pesticides. They reviewed the records of 1,139 children ages eight to fifteen, and found about 10% of whom had ADHD. They interviewed all the parents and with permission each of these children gave a urine sample for testing. In the children who had ADHD they found a significantly higher level of the byproducts of organophosphate pesticides when compared to those children who did not have ADHD.

They also noted that these children did not live on farms or near any factory that made pesticides - thus their exposure was considered to be from dietary sources which contained pesticide residue and points to an ADHD Pesticide link. They also concluded that additional studies would be needed to determine causal relationships to ADHD. They emphasized we should remain vigilent and continue to find ways to limit exposure to pesticides including washing all fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating and buying locally grown fresh produce in season and then washing it carefully. Another option would be to buy organically grown produce that advertises no pesticides used, including peaches, apples, cherries, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, celery, bell peppers, spinach, kale, collard greens, and potatoes.

Pesticides have been used for years on our farms, at our homes and in our communities. Their usage has helped fuel the American production capacity of our farm community and rid our homes of unwanted pests. That does not mean they are without risks. The EPA continues to investigate their safety. The EPA has published a 55 page public guide for pest control and pesticide safety which can be downloaded at the following link: Citizens' Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety.

Specific Types of Pesticides - Source EPA

Type of Pesticide

Method of Action

Organo - Phospates

Action affects the nervous system by disrupting the enzyme that regulates acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter. Most organophosphates are insecticides. They were developed during the early 19th century, but their effects on insects, which are similar to their effects on humans, were discovered in 1932. Some are very poisonous (they were used in World War II as nerve agents) - none of these are approved now for use as a pesticide.


Affects the nervous system by disrupting an enzyme that regulates acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter. The enzyme effects are usually reversible. There are several subgroups within the carbamates.

Organo - Chlorine

A very common insecticide used in the past, but many have been removed from the market due to their health and environmental effects and their persistence (e.g. DDT and chlordane).


Were developed as a synthetic version of the naturally occurring pesticide pyrethrin, which is found in chrysanthemums. They have been modified to increase their stability in the environment. Some synthetic pyrethroids can be toxic to the nervous system.

There is very specific labeling on each pesticide for appropriate and safe usage, storage, and disposal. For a more extensive search of pesticide information visit the EPA home page on pesticides at the following link: Home Page EPA and Pesticides


Biopesticides make up another class of pesticides that are derived from such natural materials as animals, plants, bacteria, and certain minerals. For example, canola oil and baking soda have pesticidal applications and are considered biopesticides. At the end of 2001, there were approximately 195 registered biopesticide active ingredients and 780 products. Please review the EPA links noted earlier on this page to read more about these "natural" pesticides.

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