Pesticide Exposure May Impact Development Of ADHD Interview with:
Jason R. Richardson MS,PhD DABT Associate Professor
Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine
Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and
Resident Member
Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute
Piscataway, NJ

MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Richardson:  Although ADHD is often though of as a genetic disorder, no single gene can explain more than a fraction of the cases. This suggests that environmental factors are likely to interact with genetic susceptibility to increase risk for ADHD. Our study reports that exposure of pregnant mice to relatively low levels of a commonly used pesticide reproduces the behavioral effects of ADHD in their offspring. Because the study was in animals, we wanted to see if there was any association in humans. Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention we found that children and adolescents with elevated levels of metabolites of these pesticides in their urine, which indicates exposure, were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.

MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Richardson:  Parents and Clinicians should know that pregnant women and children may be uniquely susceptible to pesticide exposure and that proper precautions should be taken when using pesticides. Vegetables and fruits should be washed and alternative pest control measures should be used in the home if possible if there are young children and pregnant women residing in the household.

MedicalResearch: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Richardson: Although we can’t change genetic susceptibility to ADHD, there may be modifiable environmental factors, including exposures to pesticides, that we should be examining in more detail. Additional studies are required to characterize exposure and effects in a larger human population. Additionally, studies in mice may help to understand why exposure during a brief period of life results in persistent, if not permanent, behavioral changes.


Jason R. Richardson, Michele M. Taylor, Stuart L. Shalat, Thomas S. Guillot III, W. Michael Caudle, Muhammad M. Hossain, Tiffany A. Mathews, Sara R. Jones, Deborah A. Cory-Slechta, and Gary W. Miller

Developmental pesticide exposure reproduces features of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder FASEB J fj.14-260901; published ahead of print January 28, 2015, doi:10.1096/fj.14-260901

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Last Updated on October 24, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD