A long-term study of pregnant women from the Salinas Valley in California shows that expectant mothers with high levels of pesticides in their bodies (measured by urine samples) are much more likely to have children with Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

There was a 500-percent increase in attention problems in 5-year-olds whose moms had had the highest levels of pesticides in their bodies when they were pregnant.

These findings add more evidence to another study, published in the journal Pediatrics in May (read more at Time.com) that links pesticide exposure in the womb to higher rates of hyperactivity and attention deficient disorders.

It's hard not to have a million reactions.

Yes, of course, chemicals that are designed to KILL living creatures ("pests") must be harmful to humans.

Though that seems so obvious, a statement like that won't fly with skeptics without more specifics.

If you want to get technical about why/how, here's the explanation from Time.com:

"Organophosphates are known to cause damage to the nerve connections in the brain - that's how they kill agricultural pests, after all. The chemical works by disrupting a specific neurotransmitter, acetylcholinesterase, a defect that has been implicated in children diagnosed with ADHD. In animal models, exposure to the pesticides has resulted in hyperactivity and cognitive deficits as well."
At the same time, I have questions about whether we are over-diagnosing children with ADHD and about what other things are causing our children to have trouble concentrating.

The CDC claims that 4.5 million American children have ADHD.

I wonder if the increasingly high rates of ADHD are partly the fault of an American school system that keeps children at their desks?

And of a society where on average children spend more than seven hours a day looking at computers, television screens, and other media?

I've noticed that my children are much more attentive and focused once they've had some time outside running around, goofing around, rolling down hills, jumping over fallen logs … you get the idea.

Human children aren't supposed to sit still most of the day, be driven around in cars from place to place, or even spend the majority of their time inside.

So what can we learn from the disturbing information in these new studies linking pesticide exposure to hyperactivity and attention disorders?

1) America needs a government policy to stop the use of pesticides in agriculture.

2) American consumers (like you and me) need to buy organic food as much as possible, and demand that the price of organic produce go down.

3) Organic food is not a luxury for rich people. It's a necessity for every American woman and child. And man too.

4) American children need exercise, fresh air, and sunlight. This will help them concentrate, improve their learning capacity, and put them in a better mood. Teachers need this too.

5) Parents need to push for more nature walks and outdoor time, as well as daily exercise as part of the American school curriculum.

6) American cities and towns (like Ashland, Oregon) need to stop spraying pesticides in public parks. Even in our progressive town, we are still using Montsanto's Round-Up in public spaces. How sick and wrong is that?

Special thanks to ChezSven for first alerting me to news of the pesticide study. If you care about the environment, ChezSven (Alexandra Grabbe) posts about environmental issues and activism on her excellent blog about being an innkeeper on Cape Cod, updated daily.

Photo by Jennifer Margulis.

Do you buy your family organic food? Do you try to stay away from pesticides? Do you think ADHD is being over-diagnosed? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Tags: eating during pregnancy, exercise, expectant mothers, kids and health, organic food, outdoor time, pesticide exposure, pesticides, pregnancy, problems with the school system, screen time, the benefits to being outside, trouble concentrating

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on Friday, August 27th, 2010 at 10:44 am and is filed under health.
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