A new analysis of U.S. health data links children's attention-deficit disorder with exposure to common pesticides used on fruits and vegetables.
While the study couldn't prove that pesticides used in agriculture contribute to childhood learning problems, experts said the research is persuasive.
"I would take it quite seriously," said Virginia Rauh of Columbia University, who has studied prenatal exposure to pesticides and wasn't involved in the new study.
More research will be needed to confirm the tie, she said.
Children may be especially prone to the health risks of pesticides because they're still growing and they may consume more body weight.than adults relative to their
In the body, pesticides break down into compounds that can be measured in urine. Almost universally, the study found detectable levels: The compounds turned up in the urine of 94 percent of the children.
The kids with higher levels had increased chances of having ADHD,, a common problem that causes students to have trouble in school. The findings were published Monday in Pediatrics.
The children may have eaten food treated with pesticides, breathed it in the air or swallowed it in their drinking water. The study didn't determine how they were exposed. Experts said it's likely children who don't live near farms are exposed through what they eat.
"Exposure is practically ubiquitous. We're all exposed," said lead author Maryse Bouchard of the University of Montreal.
She said people can limit their exposure by eating organic produce. Frozen blueberries, strawberries and celery had more pesticide residue than other foods in one government report.
A 2008 Emory University study found that in children who switched to organically grown , urine levels of pesticide compounds dropped to undetectable or close to undetectable levels.
Because of known dangers of pesticides in humans, thelimits how much residue can stay on food. But the new study shows it's possible even tiny, allowable amounts of pesticide may affect brain chemistry, Rauh said.