ADHD News & Research

Common Household Pesticide Linked to ADHD

New research finds that boys exposed to pyrethroid pesticides have a higher chance of developing ADHD.

June 2nd, 2015

Pyrethroid pesticides are an insecticide derived from chrysanthemum flowers considered less toxic than some alternatives like organophosphates. For this reason, their usage has increased in recent years for residential gardening and commercial agriculture. However, a recent study published in Environmental Health finds a potential health risk associated with these chemicals: Teen boys exposed to the pesticide were three times as likely to have ADHD as were those not exposed.

Researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center evaluated data for 687 children ages 8 to 15 from the 2000-1 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The questionnaire evaluated ADHD symptoms against the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children (DISC), and measured pyrethroid exposure with a urine test for 3-PBA. It found that boys were 50 percent more hyperactive and impulsive for each 10-fold increase in 3-PBA levels. This connection did not occur for girls.

The research shows an association; it does not show that the pesticide causes ADHD. However, animal studies have shown that pyrethroids affect the brain’s system of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is thought to govern many ADHD symptoms. This connection has residential and public health implications since pyrethroids are the most commonly used household pesticide.