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Study: Common Pesticides Linked to Attention Deficit Disorder

A study finds a connection between high exposure to common pesticides and increased risk for children developing ADHD.

Maryse Bouchard and colleagues used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) collected from 2000 and 2004. The sample included more than 1,100 children aged between 8 and 15. In this sample 119 were diagnosed with ADHD and their urine samples contained dialkyl phosphates - chemicals which result when organophosphate pesticides used to protect fruits and vegetables are broken down by the body. In the samples with a 10-fold increase in one of those compounds, the number of children with ADHD was more than half. And for the most common breakdown product, dimethyl triophosphate, the odds of ADHD almost doubled in kids with above-average levels compared to those without detectable levels [Reuters].

There are about 40 organophosphate pesticides in use in the United States, the most famous is malathion. In 2008, a government report found detectable concentrations of malathion in 28 percent of frozen blueberry samples, 25 percent of fresh strawberry samples and 19 percent of celery samples [MSNBC].

The weakness of their study is the NHANES data use only one urine sample. Thus, they couldn’t determine the source of contamination, nor could they see how levels of the chemicals in question built up over time. As such - Bouchard and colleagues write, their study shows correlation but not causation.

Bouchard’s analysis is the first to home in on organophosphate pesticides as a potential contributor to ADHD in young children. But the author stresses that her study uncovers only an association, not a direct causal link between pesticide exposure and ADHD. However, organophosphates are known to cause damage to nerve connections in the brain — after all that’s how they kill agricultural pests [TIME].

Still more to know. But another reminder to - wash your fruits and vegetables thoroughly.

 

Middle & High Schools
Starting time:

The American Academy of Pediatrics & Centers for Disease Control recommend classes should start at 8:30 a.m. of later.

Autism photo mirella dapretto

Autistic and normally developed children brains were scanned (MRI) as they were shown photos of facial expressions conveying a range of emotions (fear, happiness, anxiety, sadness, ...) and asked to perform a task.

Interesting patterns were observed in two areas. An area near the front of the brain that includes the mirror-neuron system (cells fire here both when an action is performed and when watching another person perform that action) and the movement center (An area associated with changing facial expressions).

Both groups of children had similar brain activity in the movement centers of the brain. However, the activity in the mirror-neuron centers was different. In fact the more severe a child's social impairment, the weaker the brain activity in the mirror-region.

Autistic children could make their face match the expression on the face in the picture, which supports the similar activity found in the movement center, but the weaker activity in the mirror-neuron area suggests they were not able to "feel what a person feels" when making a related facial expression.

Biophysically, these results can be explained since both the mirror-neuron center and the movement center are connected to the emotional centers of the brain. This connection creates empathy with other people.

Autistic children were able to distinguish facial expressions, copy them, but not feel or associate the particular emotion.

This suggests interventions that help children associate specific facial expression to past feelings they have experienced, which correspond to the expression pictured to facilitate children's emotional and social development.
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