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Nothing says toxic exposure like bad television

California researchers say they have found a primary cause of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. To no one’s surprise, it’s pesticide.

So now we know.

It’s pesticide — not the 40 gazillion cable television channels that are now broadcast into our homes — that cause some children’s brains to flit and flutter like a squirrel in traffic.

It’s pesticide — not the flighty influence of the Internet or the economic stresses mounting on the modern family — that impair the ability of some young minds to focus.

Some folks would have you believe the magic solution to the problem is to consume organic fruits and vegetables. The kids will be alright. Organic food will make them focused, disciplined, successful and happy.


The study, reported in August in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, focused on more than 300 Mexican-American children living in the Salinas Valley of California, an agricultural region. The children, aged 3.5 to 5, were tested for the presence of pesticides several times during the study. The mothers were also tested.

The analysis of the children’s behavior was mostly subjective, relying on rating sheets filled out by the mothers, and analysis from examiners, combined with standardized tests.

The study found a connection between pesticides and ADHD in a small percentage of the children. An article in the Los Angeles Times offered this succinct view on the study. “Many experts believe (the incidence of ADHD) increased sharply in recent decades, but critics attribute the increased incidence to over-diagnosis.”

One problem is that the study did not include a control group outside the Salinas Valley to determine whether or not ADHD occurred less frequently in non-agricultural areas.

That’s too bad, because I believe it might have revealed other reasons why some kids can’t concentrate. Like when economic hardship forces both parents to take jobs, leaving children to deal with the chaos that can characterize a modern day-care center. Or like when parents are simply not able to spend quality time with their kids at the dinner table or during study time.

Some families are even more fragmented, with parents, or single parents, who are no more than babies themselves, trying to keep a child on track. And then there’s the influence of cable television and cyberspace on child rearing.

Don’t get me wrong. Television can be a good thing. On Saturday nights when I was a child, our family participated in what would today be considered a sharply-focused family activity. We watched Bonanza from beginning to end, together in the same room, commercials and all.

But some of the stuff on today has no redeeming value at all. Personally, I think exposure to a couple of reality television shows can be a lot more toxic to a child’s mind than barely-detectable pesticide residues. 

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