Do Pesticides Cause ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common psychiatric condition that affects 1 in 10 American children. Although its cause is not clearly understood, the National Institute of Mental Health says that like many illnesses, ADHD can be traced to a combination of factors.

Beyond genes and brain damage, parents may worry about environmental factors, such as pesticide exposure.

In a post on pesticides and ADHD, WebMD cites a Harvard School of Public Health study that seems to suggest a clear link between ADHD and insecticide byproducts.

Researchers looked at urine samples from 1,139 children ages 8 to 15, 10 percent of whom had ADHD. The children with ADHD had higher levels of byproducts of organophosphates, a class of insecticides. Researchers discovered that the higher the level of these byproducts found in the urine samples, the greater the chance the child had ADHD.

WebMD makes a point to clarify that the children participating in this study didn’t live on farms or near pesticide manufacturing plants. These children were exposed to normal levels of pesticides. The good news is that parents can limit that exposure. Here are tips from WebMD:

  • Choose locally grown fresh produce that’s in season.
  • Wash produce carefully. Find produce safety tips at
  • Consider organic versions of produce known to carry the most pesticide residue, such as apples, berries, bell peppers, spinach, and potatoes.

Watch a short video about the Harvard study at

Sources:,, National Institute of Mental Health

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