31 Aug ADHD and Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals During Adolescence
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jessica Shoaff, MPH, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Fellow and
Susan A. Korrick, MD
Pulmonary and Critical Care
Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Health
Harvard Medical School · Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Channing Laboratory Boston, MA 02115
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Our study posed the question: Do teenagers’ exposures to chemicals that are often found in consumer products increase behaviors that are common among individuals diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)? Our results suggest that teenagers exposed to chemicals often found in consumer products (particularly phthalates) may have increased behaviors that are common among individuals diagnosed with ADHD. However, we did not study the diagnosis of ADHD (most of our study teens did not have ADHD). This means our results cannot answer the question of whether these chemical exposures increase the likelihood of being diagnosed with ADHD. Also, in our study design, chemical exposures and ADHD-related behaviors were measured at the same time, so it is not possible to know with certainty whether the chemical exposures altered behavior or behavior altered chemical exposures. MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Whenever it is practical to do so, it is best to reduce exposure to products containing chemicals, such as phthalates, in both adults and children. Phthalates and other chemicals with the potential for similar health effects are commonly found in personal care products and some plastics and food packaging, among other things. However, it is possible to select products that minimize exposure to these chemicals. There are good guidelines available for reducing exposure. For example, the North American network of academic Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (https://www.pehsu.net/) are a resource for managing environmental chemical exposures in children. They provide fact sheets for the public on a wide range of public health topics including how to make consumer choices that limit phthalate exposures.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: We were only able to assess chemical exposures during the teen years. However, exposure earlier in childhood might also impact ADHD-related behavior among teenagers. It would be valuable to study these earlier exposures. Also, the teenagers participating in this study were born in the 1990s and lived in southeastern Massachusetts. Ours was an observational study and the certainty of the findings would be enhanced if other studies were able to reproduce our findings. Thus, it is important to see whether similar results can be found in a different group of teenagers living in other regions. Finally, it will also be useful to study how teenagers’ exposure to these chemicals might impact ADHD-related behaviors in later life.
Shoaff JR, Coull B, Weuve J, et al. Association of Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals During Adolescence With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder–Related Behaviors. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(8):e2015041. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.15041
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