Is There a Link Between ADHD and Pesticides?

Posted May 19, 2010 by

Photo of elisabeth

This week, the news broke that there might be a  link between pesticides and ADHD in kids.

Apparently, researchers tested children across the U.S. in the general population and found that those with higher levels of the breakdown products of organophosphates (a type of widely-used pesticide) in their urine were twice as likely to have ADHD.

This sentence in one article I read about this study gave me chills: “Organophosphates were originally developed for chemical warfare, and are known to be toxic to the nervous system.”

The study is not conclusive, but researchers urged parents to wash all produce carefully before feeding it to their children.

I happen to believe that pollutants in our environment, pesticides and the foods we eat contribute in large part to our children’s health and behavior, as well as our own.

What do you think? Could there be a connection?


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

Popular on Empowering Parents

View Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Susan Engel Report

    Wow. I am so humbled. I can’t believe the stories that I have read here … While my kids haven’t been diagnosed with ADHD, the studies that Elisabeth reported are disturbing, to say the least.

    My heart goes out to the parents who have written here who are struggling. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  2. janamama Report

    I know in my heart that there is a connection in regards to ADHD and the environment. My son has improved dramatically since we started the Feingold diet. I don’t give him anything with weird ingredients or colors and we stay away from GMO’s whenever possible. All of our produce is always organic. It’s actually cheaper-so please don’t use that as your excuse. ADHD is an ASD and looking into natural supplements and detox often helps. Heavy metals and a genetic predisposition to being sensitve to todays environment are ften the culprit. Maybe these kids don’t detox as well as others…there’s no reason not to try Vitamin B6 (P5P) or B12 (helps methylation system). Phenols could also be the problem-they are for my son-I know when he’s had a high phenol food because his ears turn red and he goes nuts. I use a digestive enzyme called No-Fenol for this…AND IT WORKS!! Come on warrior parents-RESEARCH!!!

  3. Jennifer Report

    I wanted to mention that one of the above children who resisted personal hygiene seems to have some symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder, which is what my daughter has. That can sometimes looks like ADHD but has to do with the way the body processes sensory input. Therapy and other strategies can help with that. Google it if you want to know more. A friend of mine who is taking her child to Brain Balance – – talked to a behavioral therapist about defiance and she suggested a star chart. You spot the child three stars and then take one away for each offense. Losing one star is a warning. Losing the second star gets them one hour of cleaning the bathroom or some other unpleasant task. Be consistent and they will stop because they don’t want to scrub toilets!

  4. Flippy Report

    I believe ADD and ADHD seem to be being used as a catch-all for SOME similar symptoms.

    I lose thoughts constantly, like what I was going to just write. I’ve had some great ideas over the years, but couldn’t write them down fast enough, or even say them into a recorder, so they are lost…and one phrase I dislike is “It must not have been important!” The fact that we can’t drown out ANY noises, or that I can be sitting in a restaurant and not hear what the person at my table is saying to me, but I can hear everyone else in the tables near us and I have many times turned and commented to them about their conversation…
    Our lack of social skills…
    I am rambling, sorry, I was diagnosed May 1, 1997 with Severe ADHD and Dysthymia (I was told it was chronic low self esteem of being mistreated because of the undiagnosed ADHD). At the time of the diagnoses I was trying to take college classes. It wasn’t until after that and trying to take 12 units in college and having to hardship withdrawal on finals night because I could never get past the first lesson in each class….was it evident I had Learning Disorders, it would have cost me $400 for a diagnoses and even then I wouldn’t be able to afford testing to find out what it would take for me to learn how to learn. Oh, Skagit Valley Community College only had 2 accommodations for those with ADHD, longer time on tests and a place to take the test with no distractions. Maybe they have more by now. Evidently I could have taken the entrance exam again…but at that point I didn’t know about my L.D.’s

    My sisters could never understand me and yet their doctors have recently diagnosed them with ADD and ADHD. I don’t believe they have it or they would have understand me instead of put me down all my life, even now! We are all menopausal. Funny, I was never told I was pre-menopausal, and joked “How would I know?“ Oh yeah, night sweats and hot flashes. We are getting up there in age, I will be 58 on June 17th. I always thought it was because I was a Gemini that I was so “Flippy” and different.

    My 16 year old son is diagnosed, he is not severe like me, he is hard to handle and why I read every article. You know how hard it is for a single mom with Severe ADHD to try to parent and ADHD child. Supposing quite a few of you are in the same boat or have more than one child. My hat is off to you for being able to handle them or coming here for help with it. I feel for you, if there is anything you do, try to get a handle on the behavior while they are young if you can. I wish I could have. I took every parenting class I could find and still my ADHD gets in the way of following through. Just writing this has taken me over an hour and it reminded me of the old word processing where you could lose the all and not retrieve it. That was devastating to me and I would just give up because those thoughts were gone.

    Bottom line – there is a lot more to ADHD that makes it a joke to assume it is caused by pesticides or not eating organic food. It is that our brains are wired differently, genetically, not by trauma or injury.
    ADHD affects EVERY aspect of my life. I’m frustrated with doctors who won’t change my meds because “they” think they are working! They need to spend some time in my mind. There are plenty of functioning ADHD people…I used to think I was one of them.

    Forgive me for writing like this if it doesn’t make sense to you, it is from an ADHD brained person.

    Flippy (aka) Joyce

  5. Flippy Report

    Better wash that apple or you’re gonna get ADHD…how much sense does that make?
    I submitted this comment online to GMA after the airing their “new” findings:

    If pesticides were the problem then EVERYONE would have the disorder they are claiming except for those who eat only organic…hmmmm
    ADHD is not just out of control individuals. Our thought process is different and unique and understood by others with this frustrating invisible disorder. The diagnoses consists of certain symptoms present before the age of 7. Then gets worse if not diagnosed until adulthood. Wondering what is wrong with me all my life. Wondering what’s the difference between being unique and being different and treated like I’m stupid, lazy and crazy. It is frustrating to hear about studies blaming this legitimate disorder on things that weren’t around when I was young. My younger sister is Bi-Polar…what are they saying she could be exposed to get that? Disorders are genetic and looking back we had a lot of strange relatives, including 3 from the Mayflower and 19 from the Revolutionary War. Trying my best to act “normal“, will never happen since I have severe ADHD, Cyclothymia, L.D‘s, and Alexthymia…my mother “wished one of me on me”…she got her wish…A Physical Therapist told me I would be perfect for Seinfeld Show just the way I was. The show about nothing…

    Joyce (aka Flippy)

  6. Sindarla Report

    My daughter is 8 & has ADHD. She was previously on Focalin, Methalin & then Focalin again, until I found out they were both forms of Ritalin. I am concerned about my daughter using Ritalin because there have been studies that the use of Ritalin in childhood can lead to drug use/abuse later in life. So a few months ago she switched to Adderall & it’s working well, but by the time she comes home at 3:45 PM it has worn off. Her psychiatrist recomended she take another dose As Soon As she comes home, but I haven’t been able to do that just yet because I’m going to be switching her to a different psychiatrist & therapist & I may need extra medication before I can get a new prescription for her so I’m holding onto the extra supply. Linda, I know how you feel because most of the behaviors your 9 year old exhivits my 8 year old does too. My daughter has gotten in trouble in school & she gives me a problem with Everything now, brushing her teeth, mouthwashing, brushing her hair & now she Won’t wear jeans, All she will wear now are skorts. She sometimes gives me a problem to take showers but she ultimately takes it & she end up Only brushing her teeth & mouthwashing like maybe 3 times per week. I may end up ultimately sending her to an inpatient program for children like her in a hospital nearby for a month, she’d come home, if she behaves, on Saturdays & Sundays. I guess I just have to deal with it. I end up giving in to her in the morning because the bus will be coming soon & if she misses it she Won’t be going to school because I don’t have a car right now. It can be Sooo frustraying!

  7. Mom in Distress Report

    My name is Allison Jimenez and I have a 6 yr old daughter and a 7 yr old son both with ADHD and ODD. Just to let Lindarae know that I know what she is going through because my life is very hectic at times trying to deal with both my kids. Amanda is on Abilify and Adderall and Angel is on Abilify and Metadate but in my son’s case all he has really done is gain weight but is just as defiant and lacking focus as ever. I ordered the entire total transformation program including all the other add-ons in the hopes of finding a solution to end the chaos which is my life. I want to do right by my kids and I am hoping that this will be a start.

  8. Elizabethc Report

    Hello, Don’t give up and be a strong advocate for your child. My children aes 13 and 4 both struggle with defiance and ADHD. I would reccomend (if you have not already asked about this)for an updated physical and to have other blood work done such as thyroid tests, iron levels checked, diabeties rule out and allergies to certain foods can be a part of the struggle with behaviors. My children I found out were eating alot of food that had high white starches and red food coloring in them. I took out the food that had those in it and within one month the hyperactivity on both children became minimal. I still have defiance but it’s more under control. I brought my children to nutritionist and dieticians who specialize in ADHD behavior struggles who gave me a list of foods to stay away from as well as ways to slowly replace with healthier food choices. I know that giving supplements to children is controversial and please consult with your childrens PCP first. Connecting yourself to a therapist as well as your children to one can help with behavior modification planning. My own combination of therapy and diet changes has made a big difference in our household. We did have to make some life style changes such as the whole family learning how to eat healthier but it has been worth it. Good luck.

  9. lindarae392000 Report

    Hello. My name is Linda Nindorf, I have a 9 year old daughter with ADHD, she has been on Adderal since late fall of 09, just lately we changed her to Focalin, she has continued to exhibit the same non focus problems, and more in the classroom. She has had several behavior papers come home in the last month. All are disrespect, defiance and shutdown, failed to listen to direction in classroom. I am at my wits end with all of this. Her pediatrician stated that diet doesn’t really have anything to do with it but I believe that is does, she is totally out of control when she gets home. Every request I make of her she is a flat out NO! and screams at me and stomps her feet. I can’t have this type of household anymore, please help me.



Join our NEW Total Transformation® Learning Center!

Practical, affordable parenting help starting at $14.95/month BECOME A MEMBER TODAY!

Empowering Parents is the leading online resource for child behavior help


Parent Coaching Sessions

7.5 Million

Global Visitors

10+ Years

Helping Families