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Lead exposure strongly linked to ADHD

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

ADHD is suspected to be the result of genes in 70 percent of cases, and the now scientists suggest the other 30 percent is caused by lead. Individuals with ADHD have difficulty focusing, concentrating, move slowly, are easily distracted, and act impulsively. Symptoms are more common in children but can persist into adulthood.

The cause of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) has eluded researchers. A new study strongly links lead exposure to the disease that causes an array of behavioral issues. Researchers have explored a variety of causes for ADHD, including tobacco exposure, environmental toxins, pre-natal exposure to alcohol, genes, sugar, brain injury, and food additives - and lead.

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Lead is still found in the environment, and repeatedly appears in children’s toys and school supplies, posing health risks from neurotoxicity. Two recent studies linked higher levels of lead in the bloodstream to symptoms of ADHD.

In one study children with a diagnosis of ADHD were compared to controls – the children with a formal diagnosis of ADHD had slightly higher blood levels of lead, linked to hyperactivity, but not impulsiveness. The second study strongly linked blood lead levels to the disorder for hyperactivity and attention deficit with no association to socioeconomic status, race, IQ, or maternal smoking during pregnancy.

Psychological scientist Joel Nigg of the Oregon Health & Science University suggests that low level exposure to lead is the culprit for ADHA in 30 percent of cases. He hypothesizes that lead attaches to key areas of the brain where it either activates or switches of genes that control brain development producing lack of control seen with ADHD. The study strongly suggests that lead exposure is linked to cognitive changes in the brain that lead to symptoms of ADHD.