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Can Environmental Toxins Cause ADD & ADHD?

Top Expert Videos on ADD & ADHD

Diagnoses of attention deficit disorder are at an all-time high, and while the exact cause for each case may not be possible to specify just yet, new evidence suggests environmental toxins are a contributing factor to ADD and ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactive disorder. NYU School of Medicine associate professor Leonardo Trasande, MD/MPP, spoke to Kids in the House about what substances put your child at risk.

“Attention deficit disorder, or ADD,  is a condition that has been documented to be especially frequent in children and adolescents in the United States today, and unfortunately we have also identified a number of environmental chemicals that are linked to ADD,” says Trasande.

Trasande lists tobacco smoke, lead, and some pesticides as among the toxins that are proven to “contribute significantly to ADD and other developmental disabilities in children.” It has long been said that tobacco and alcohol use during pregnancy can cause severe physical and mental health complications, but new studies out of Harvard School of Public Health suggest adding a few more common chemicals to your blacklist.

Philippe Grandjean, doctor, author, and adjunct professor at Harvard School of Public Health, conducted a study with Philip Landrigan, Dean of Global Health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan, on the effects of chemical exposure to brain health. In their research, Grandjean and Landrigan identified twelve toxins from everyday life that they believe to cause ADD, in addition to autism spectrum disorders and lowered IQs. One of these chemicals is chlorpyrifos, a common pesticide.

“I advise pregnant women to try to eat organic because it reduces their exposure by 80 or 90 percent. These are the chemicals I really worry about in terms of American kids, the organophosphate pesticides like chlorpyrifos,” Landrigan says.

The pesticide DDT was also listed, though it earned its reputation as a hazardous substance decades ago. Chlorpyrifos, on the other hand, is not a household name but definitely should be. Another household name to look out for is fluoride.

Fluoride doesn’t set off alarm bells quite like the mention of lead or pesticides for most people because it’s a major part of daily life in the United States. If you’ve brushed your teeth, swished with mouthwash, or knocked back a cool glass of tap water, chances are you’ve ingested the chemical a few times already today. This may not have caused concern in the past– fluoride has always been touted as a dental protectant– but a new report in Environmental Health journal finds a strong link between prenatal and postnatal fluoride exposure and Attention Deficit Disorder occurrence.

As Trasande points out, genetics do play a major role in the development of ADD and ADHD. Environmental factors are unlikely to be the sole, defining reason that a child receives an attention deficit disorder diagnosis, but the National Academy of Sciences attributes 28% of developmental disabilities to having been at least contributed to by environmental toxins.

Your child’s attention deficit disorder or other developmental disability may have been an unpreventable, unforeseeable genetic occurrence, but taking appropriate measures to limit or avoid environmental toxins is still a worthwhile venture.

Check out some helpful tips on how to reduce your child’s exposure to these and other chemicals here.

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