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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Arizona: Assistant Professor to Study Link between Prenatal Exposure to Pesticides and Childhood ADHD

Dr. Melissa Furlong, a postdoctoral fellow and epidemiologist in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, will study the link between prenatal and childhood pesticides and childhood Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Findings from this research will provide some of the first estimates of the association between prenatal pesticide exposures and ADHD in children.

The study is funded by a $910,000, five-year career development grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (K99ES028742). Dr. Furlong will focus on two types of pesticides widely used in agriculture, the home and gardens: organophosphates (OPs) and pyrethroids.

Prenatal levels of  organophosphorus (OP) biomarkers have been associated with characteristic symptoms of ADHD, including deficits in working memory, social responsiveness and other indicators. Cross-sectional studies also have shown that children with ADHD, and higher levels of ADHD behaviors, have higher levels of pyrethroid metabolites.

To identify women who were exposed to pesticides during pregnancy, Dr. Furlong will use data from the Arizona Pesticides Use Registry, a list of all commercial pesticide applications in the state.

Using birth certificates and data from Arizona Medicaid (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System or AHCCCS) claim records, she aims to identify 4,000 children with ADHD and 16,000 “controls” without ADHD born between 1992 and 2012.

From this information, Dr. Furlong and colleagues will be able to calculate an individual’s exposure to pesticides across her entire pregnancy.

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