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May 17, 2010

Scientists Link ADHD to Common Pesticide Exposure

Pesticide sprayingWriting in The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan detailed how, following World War II, nerve-gas factories were converted en masse into synthetic pesticide factories. These weapons reborn as pesticides are organophosphates, as are both Sarin and VX gases. For farmers, they work by, as Wikipedia tastefully puts it, "irreversibly inactivating" an essential neurotransmitter within insects -- just as they worked for military generals by irreversibly inactivating the same equally essential neurotransmitter within soldiers.

The dangers of organophosphates are thus nothing new, though industrial agriculture continues to drop tens of millions of pounds of them on fields across the country every year. The argument in favor of their use has always been that, whatever their devastating effects at high doses, general exposure through the environment was far too low to do any harm.

The BPA fiasco has, of course, taught us that low-level exposure to supposedly "nontoxic" doses can indeed be a problem. And now researchers from Harvard and the University of Montreal report in the Journal of Pediatrics that low-level exposure to organophosphates may significantly increase the risk of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. "The findings are based on data from the general U.S. population, meaning that exposure to the pesticides could be harmful even at levels commonly found in children's environment," says Reuters.

READ THE REST OF THIS POST AT GRIST.ORG

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