Pesticides and ADHD

Even small amounts of pesticide exposure may cause ADHD. The June 2010 edition of Pediatrics looked at over 1000 kids and found that the levels of organophosphates in urine correlated directly with cognitive function and with hyperactivity and inattention.

The sad news is that neurologist have known that pesticides are harmful to cognitive function for a long time. They have seen children exposed to pesticides on farms suffer cognitively as a result of organophosphate exposure and have warned against having young children close to fields during fumigation.

What they did not know is that even very small levels of exposure are harmful. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits how much residual pesticide can be left on food but this allowed amount, as it turns out, is harmful. In a way this is very similar to the lead story. The EPA set limits on the lead exposure that was considered 'safe' and but the allowed exposure level can actually cause cognitive problems and ADHD.

Studies on what foods contain the most residual pesticides have found that the Peaches, Apples, Sweet Bell Peppers, Celery, Nectarines, Strawberries, raspberries, Cherries, Pears, Grapes (Imported), Spinach, Lettuce, and potatoes contain the most organophosphates and that even frozen strawberries and blueberries have been found to have dangerous levels of pesticides.  Washing the fruit does nothing to get rid of the pesticides as they penetrate the skin and reside in the part of the fruit that we eat.  Even thick skin fruit like oranges contain pesticides.

The best way to avoid exposure is to eat organic fruits and vegetables or to avoid the above fruits and vegetables altogether. Most of us cannot afford all organic fruits and vegetables so I have a list of the fruits and vegetables with the least level of pesticides. They include: onions, avacado, frozen corn, pineapples, mango, asparagus, frozen peas, kiwi, bananas, watermelon, cabbage, broccoli, and papaya.

You can eliminate 80% or your exposure by avoiding the foods on the high pesticide list and choosing the low pesticide food instead.  Pet products can also contain toxic pesticides so avoid pet shampoo, flea collars and other flea medicines with organophosphates and avoid using toxic pesticides in the home and garden.

My garden is growing tomatoes, green beans, sweet peppers, eggplant, squash, and pumpkins.  I wish I had an apple and a peach tree.


  1. I've hears about this before along with sulphides / sulphates used to preserve food. However like you say it is impossible to afford to buy all these organic foods. Since we tried the Gluten / Wheat / Dairy free diet with our son, I now find I read all labels and try and buy the best we can afford. I never buy the super range now. We are hoping to move to house this year and the new house we would like has a lovely big garden and I already have in mind a small veggy patch!

  2. I think pretty soon we will all be growing whatever we can in little pots all over our houses because God only knows what else they will find in our food!! Thanks for writing!

  3. Correlation doesn't equal causation. Please do your readers a real favour and refresh yourself on your experimental design textbooks - you have the resources available to you.

    That you have "seen children exposed to pesticides on farms suffer cognitively as a result of organophosphate exposure" does not necessarily follow from the contention that they 'cause' ADHD. Yes, organophosphate exposure affects cognitive function. But so does drinking antifreeze and Peach Daquiris. So does a concussion.

    Sorry to harp on this, but I find it really frustrating to see a professional like you write like someone who hasn't had rigorous training in experimental design and analysis. Perhaps you are simply writing to a different audience, but you have know what your words can mean to people looking for answers.


  4. Mungo there has just been a major paper published on Pesticides and ADHD in the June "Pediatrics" journal. I do understand, very well that causation and correlation are different. The authors of the "Pediatrics" article were concerned about the relationship enough to warn about the dangers of pesticide exposure and the possibility of this being a cause of the increased incident of ADHD. I am so sorry that I have frustrated you. It was obviously not my intention.


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