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By Lynette Holloway

The residue of certain pesticides found on fresh produce in the U.S. and Canada increase the odds of children developing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by 35 percent, according to a recently released study.

About 4.5 million children aged 5 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and rates of diagnosis have risen by 3 percent a year between 1997 and 2006. The prevalence of medication treatment for ADHD is highest among children aged 9 to 12.

Exposure to the pesticides, organophosphates, have been linked to behavioral and cognitive problems in children in the past, but previous studies have focused on communities of farm workers and other high-risk populations, according to, quoting the study, which appears in the journal Pediatrics.

Led by Maryse Bouchard in Montreal, researchers based at the University of Montreal and Harvard analyzed the levels of pesticide residue in the urine of more than 1,100 children ages 8 to 15 and found that those with the highest level of dialkyl phosphates, which are breakdown products of organophosphate pesticides, had the highest incidence of ADHD, according to Time.

Further, the study revealed that exposure even at the low end meant that children were twice as likely as those with undetectable levels to show symptoms of ADHD, the article said. Bouchard said she was surprised “to see an effect at lower levels of exposure.”

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