Although there was only a small link between attention problems and exposure at the younger age, the association became significantly larger at age 5, especially among boys.
"We saw that the children were making more errors on the test and that it was significantly related to the mother's prenatal metabolite levels for these pesticides," said Eskenazi, who is director of the Center for Children's Environmental Health Research at the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health.
It bears noting that these children had much higher exposure levels than the "average" kid.
And "attention problems are so multifactorial that it would be hard to say that this is a major agent if it is causal at all," she added.
A second paper by the same group of researchers that appears in the same journal reported that "children don't have the level of an enzyme needed to metabolize these organophosphates the same as adults until they're much older than we expected," said Eskenazi. "Their metabolism is different, and now we have hard evidence of that."
There's also "suggestive evidence" that some children may harbor genetic variations that make them more susceptible to the neurocognitive effects of pesticides.
"If research consistently shows that symptoms of ADHD are related to the quantity of the organophosphate pesticide exposure, then it seems prudent for families to at least try to limit exposure," said Dr. Nakia Scott, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and a child psychiatrist with Lone Star Circle of Care.
There are several things people can do to protect themselves.
"You can wash produce thoroughly before you eat and try to invest in organic produce when you can," she added. "This may [also] be a reason to grow your own garden. Or f
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