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ADHD in Children Health Center

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Pesticides May Raise Kids' Risk of ADHD

Study Shows Food Is Likely Source of Pesticide Exposure Linked to ADHD

Pesticide Exposure From Common Foods continued...

"We were quite sure the exposure came from residential pesticide use and from food," Rauh tells WebMD. "What happens is a whole variety of commonly used foods are sprayed routinely with organophosphates to eliminate pests. That is where the food residue comes from."

Unlike cigarette smoke, a health-harming pollutant that one can do much to avoid, pesticides are hard to avoid. They're everywhere -- even in foods we generally consider healthy.

"Here is a situation where the average consumer isn't buying the wrong kind of food or breathing the wrong kind of air. There is not a whole lot the average person can do," Rauh says. "And that is where we need the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] to take a good look at all these studies and see if the risk warrants dropping the safety limit for these chemicals and tightening their regulation."

According to tests by the consumer organization Environmental Working Group (EWG), seven fruits are among the foods most contaminated with organophosphate pesticides:

  • peaches
  • strawberries
  • apples
  • domestic blueberries
  • nectarines
  • cherries
  • imported grapes

The EWG also found high pesticide levels in five vegetables:

  • celery
  • sweet bell peppers
  • spinach
  • kale
  • collard greens
  • potatoes

The good news is that EWG found 15 fruits and vegetables to be relatively low in pesticide residues:

  • onions
  • avocado
  • sweet corn (frozen)
  • pineapples
  • mango
  • sweet peas (frozen)
  • asparagus
  • kiwi fruit
  • cabbage
  • eggplant
  • domestic cantaloupe
  • watermelon
  • grapefruit
  • sweet potatoes
  • honeydew melon

Weisskopf and colleagues report their findings in the May 17 online issue of Pediatrics.

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