Pesticide Exposure and Boys with ADD

Pesticide Exposure and Boys with ADD
With there is a new season of gardening upon us, it's time to look at the effects that some common pesticides might have on our children. Recent research shows a link between the use of a common type of pesticide, pyrethroids, and boys with Attention Deficit Disorder. Here is information about these pesticides, what the research shows, and how to limit your family's exposure to these chemicals.

Background information about pesticides:

In 2000-2001, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) banned organophosphate pest control from household use. Organophosphates are a type of pest control that has both organic compounds and phosphorus. They are extremely toxic. With the ban on organophosphates, pyrethroids were used increasingly in pest control, including agricultural use. Pyrethroids are synthesized versions of pyrethrums, a naturally occurring chemical in flowers, such as chrysanthemums. Over time researchers have increased the complexity and efficacy of these pesticides molecules. Pyrethroids were not considered to be as toxic as organophosphates, but recent research shows that pyrethroids also have consequences for people who are exposed to them.

What the research says about the link between pyrethroids and Attention Deficit Disorder:

The study was conducted by the researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Their findings were published online in the journal Environmental Health. They studied 687 children between the ages of 8 and 15-years-old.

To study the children, researchers used data from the 2000-2001 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Why would they use this old data in 20115? There was a very good reason for this.

"The 2000-2001 cycle of NHANES was the only cycle of the study that included a diagnostic interview of children's ADHD symptoms and pyrethroid pesticide biomarkers. Pesticide exposure measurements were collected in a random sample of the urine of half the 8-11 year olds and a third of the 12-15 year olds."

Using standardized interviews that established levels of hyperactivity and impulsivity for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, the researchers correlated these behaviors with levels of the biomarker 3-PBA found in urine that was collected from the children. This biomarker is associated with exposure to pyrethroids. In boys, measurement of detectable urinary 3-PBA meant that they were three times as likely to have ADHD. This was compared to boys without detectable 3-PBA in their urine. Growth in urinary 3-PBA was tied to increases in symptoms with boys. Girls did not seem to be affected.

How can I limit my family's exposure to pyrethroids?

*Don't use pesticides in your home and yard.
*Eat organic food as much as you can.
*Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables well before you serve them.

If you have a family history of Attention Deficit Disorder, it can help to take precautions against making the situation worse. This preliminary research shows that pyrethroids might increase hyperactivity and impulsivity in boys. It is best to keep these pesticides out of your family's diet. Limit use of pesticides in your home and yard. Pay attention to the food that you serve. Read the food labels to see how your food has been treated. Never eat unwashed fresh fruits or vegetables. Eat organic foods whenever you can. Informed consumers are powerful people. Use your power to help keep your family safe.


Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. (2015, June 1). Study links exposure to common pesticide with ADHD in boys. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 20, 2015 from

Information about pyrethroids, including brand names of products and the differences between pyrethrums and pyrethroids:

This first website has good information about pesticides. It includes the name brands of pyrethroids.

My Own Pest Control

This second site explores the differences between pyrethrum and pyrethroids.

Living With Bugs

Related links: The Related Links below this article may be of interest to you.

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You Should Also Read:
Lead and ADD Development
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Mercury in the Environment and ADD

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