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what causes adhd

Pesticides

Research does suggest a possible link between ADHD and pesticides.

A 2010 study in Pediatrics found that children with higher urine levels of organophosphate, a pesticide used on produce, had higher ADHD rates. Another 2010 study showed that women with higher urine levels of organophosphate were more likely to have a child with ADHD.

The studies suggest a possible link, but can’t prove that pesticides cause ADHD. Marcy Rosenzweig Leavitt, PsyD, who works with ADHD patients in private practice in the Los Angeles area, recommends buying organic varieties of fruits and vegetables, especially those prone to high levels of pesticides (or scrubbing nonorganic produce before eating).

Smoking, drinking in pregnancy

Fetal exposure to alcohol and tobacco is thought to play a role in ADHD. Children exposed to tobacco smoke prenatally are 2.4 times as likely to have ADHD as those who are not, research suggests.

“Fetuses exposed to alcohol can develop fetal alcohol effects or fetal alcohol syndrome, and the prominent features for both are the symptoms you see in ADHD,” says Mark L. Wolraich, MD, chief of the section of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, in Oklahoma City.