Date: 22 Mar 2013

Review of current evidence on the impact of pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls and selected metals on attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder in children

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The aim of this review was to investigate the association between attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or ADHD-related symptoms and industrial chemicals, such as organophosphates and organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), lead, mercury and manganese. Medline, PubMed and EBSCO searches were performed to identify the studies that analyzed the association of prenatal and postnatal child exposure to such toxicants and ADHD or ADHD-related symptoms. The review is restricted to human studies published in English in peer-reviewed journals since 2000. Most of the presented studies focused on pesticides, PCB and lead. The impact of mercury and manganese was investigated less frequently. The findings indicate that children’s exposure to organophosphate pesticides may cause symptoms consistent with pervasive developmental disorder, ADHD or attention problems. Exposures to organochlorine pesticides and PCBs were associated with ADHD-like behaviors such as alertness, quality of alert response, and cost of attention. The studies provided evidence that blood lead level below 10 μg/dl was associated with ADHD or ADHD-related symptoms. Information on the association between exposure to mercury and neurotoxicity is limited, and requires further confirmation in future research. Two studies indicated that exposure to manganese is related to ADHD; such exposure and its impact on children neurodevelopment need to be further investigated. Future studies should use a prospective design with multiple biological samples collected over time for better assessment of exposure and its critical windows. Additionally, inclusion of potential confounding factors and co-exposures is crucial.

This study was performed under the project “Prenatal and postnatal exposure to tobacco smoke, PAHs and heavy metals and the risk of respiratory diseases, allergy and poor mental and physical development” supported by the grant PNRF-218-AI-1/07 from Norway through the Norwegian Financial Mechanism within the Polish-Norwegian Research Fund.