On a beautiful summers day, while tending your garden, thoughts of danger aren’t always the first things that come to mind. Unfortunately, taking a closer look at the way that you tend to your daffodils and lilies could hold some substantial health benefits. Not just to your own health, but also the health of your children. Why? The simple answer is pesticides. Pests, as we all know, are public enemy number one in terms of garden upkeep. No one wants their hours of hard work turned into a full course meal for a party of ants, ticks, and God knows what else. For this reason, pesticides are usually our first lines of defense.
However, recent research published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) by Rutgers scientists and colleagues from Emory University, The Rochester Medical Center, and Wake Forest University made an astonishing discovery. Mice that were exposed to the pyrethroid pesticide deltamethrin in utero and lactation showed several features of ADHD. Symptoms included; dysfunctional dopamine signaling to the brain, hyperactivity, working memory, attention deficits, and impulsive-like behavior.
Data was collected from both animal models and humans, providing some strong foundational evidence that being exposed to pyrethroid pesticides, including deltamethrin, may be an important risk factor in the development of ADHD-like symptoms, says lead author Jason Richardson, an associate professor in the Department and Environmental and Occupational Medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and member of the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute (EOHSI).
“Although we can’t change genetic susceptibility to ADHD, there may be modifiable environmental factors, including exposures to pesticides that we should be examining in more detail”, says Richardson. ADHD mostly affects children, an estimated 11 percent aged between 4 and 17, about 6.4 million as of 2011. Boys are approximately four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls. Symptoms like the inability to sit still, and paying attention and following directions, are usually diagnosed when the child starts attending school between the ages of 3 and 6 years old.
Pesticide Link to ADHD
Important notes to consider, in regards to the study, are that male mice were affected more than the female mice. And their ADHD-like symptoms persisted well into adulthood, although the pesticide, which was considered to be less toxic because of its use on golf courses, homes, gardens, lawns, and vegetable crops, was no longer being detected in their systems.
Strong scientific evidence tells us that genetics might play an important role in the inheritance of the disorder, however, no specific genes have been found to be the cause of ADHD. Scientists believe that environmental factors may be assisting in the development of this behavioral condition.
Health care questionnaires given to 2,123 children and adolescents were analyzed and studied by the Center for Disease Control, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). In addition, researchers asked parents whether or not a physician had ever diagnosed their child with ADHD and cross-referenced that with prescription drug history to see if any of the common ADHD drugs had been administered. They found that children with higher pyrethroid pesticide metabolite levels in their urine were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.
Pregnant women and young children seem to be more susceptible to pesticide exposure because their bodies do not process the chemicals as quickly. For this reason, Richardson says, human studies need to be conducted in order to determine how exposure affects the development of a fetus, or young child. “We nee to make sure these pesticides are being used correctly and not unduly expose those who may be at a higher risk, “ Richardson says.