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US Study Shows Link Between Pesticides And ADHD

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
US Study Shows Link Between Pesticides And ADHD

Wellington, Aug 20 NZPA - An American study has shown children whose mothers were exposed to organophosphate pesticides while pregnant are more likely to have attention problems as they grow up.

Researchers at the University of California Berkeley tested pregnant Mexican-American women living in the Salinas Valley of California for evidence that organophosphate pesticides had actually been absorbed by their bodies, and then followed their children as they grew.

Women with more chemical traces of the pesticides in their urine while pregnant had children more likely to have symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), at age five, with the trend stronger in boys, the researchers found.

Organophosphates are designed to attack the nervous systems of bugs by affecting message-carrying chemicals called neurotransmitters including acetylcholine, which is important to human brain development.

University of Canterbury toxicology expert Ian Shaw said he was not at all surprised with the study results as pesticides interfered with the development of the nervous system.

"Organophosphorus pesticides are designed to disrupt the nervous system -- that's how they kill insects.

"The question is, what dose does a pregnant woman need to receive to result in neurological damage to her child?"

The problem might only affect woman in agricultural communities where their exposure to organophosphates would be greater, especially if they worked on farms during their pregnancy, rather than being exposed to it through food.

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) conducted a survey of chemical residues on food earlier this year, which found three samples of cucumbers with levels of methamidophos above the maximum residue limit of 0.2 mg/kg (0.3038, 0.3219 and 0.3206).

Organophosphate residues were also found were found in nectarines, bananas, bok choi, oranges, broccoli and cucumber but below the maximum limit where it is considered safe to consume daily.

NZFSA said it was is working with Horticulture New Zealand to remind growers of their responsibilities around chemical use and residues.

Graeme Peters, the chief executive of Agcarm, the body representing the crop protection industry, said the use of organophosphates in New Zealand was declining.

"They are old chemistry and they are gradually being phased out with new chemistry, but having said that they are still used."

The industry acknowledged organophosphates were hazardous and there were strict warnings and rules around their use, he said.

Health was a top priority for the pesticide industry and products were rigorously tested and heavily regulated, he said.

All the research showed that at extremely low levels the pesticides were not hazardous to people's health.

"If the research did find that they were, people would stop using them, or they would be banned," Mr Peters said.

"The pesticide industry takes health and safety incredibly seriously, we don't just pay lip service to it. There's a huge amount of investment in satisfying the regulators and themselves."

The Environmental Risk Management Authority said it was actively reassessing the use of organophosphates.

It has already revoked the approvals for methyl parathion and azinphos methyl and is consulting on and assessing the future use of others.

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