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Study Finds That Lead Affects ADHD, Even in Miniscule Amounts

January 7, 2016

For a while, scientists assumed there was a link between lead exposure and adult deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Now, Oregon Health & Science University says it has been able to confirm that link.

Children inherit a propensity for ADHD from their parents, but there’s also considerable evidence it can be triggered, or made worse, by environmental factors like lead.

By looking at the genetics of almost 400 children, OHSU professor Joel Nigg says that, for the first time in humans, they’ve been able to scientifically confirm a lead and ADHD link.

“This means that it’s not just a genetic condition," said Nigg. "We have to take these environments very seriously. And if we do, we can get a handle on the cause. We can learn how to prevent ADHD.”

Kids pick up lead from old water pipes, smoke-stack emissions and dust generated by lead paint — like on an old window frame. 

And in some Northwest communities, lead and arsenic have turned up in high quantities in soil where orchards used to exist.

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Jennifer Garcia with her daughter, Hannah, 2. Garcia found out the soil in her yard tested high for arsenic. It’s left over from pesticides sprayed before the 1950s on this same piece of land, when it was an orchard.

Lena Jackson