OHSU study finds strong link between lead exposure, ADHD - KPTV - FOX 12

OHSU study finds strong link between lead exposure, ADHD

Posted: Updated: Jan 07, 2016 01:10 PM
O'Roak is an assistant professor at OHSU in Portland O'Roak is an assistant professor at OHSU in Portland

Oregon Health and Science University Doernbecher Children’s Hospital has released a study that scientists say shows a causal link between attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and lead exposure.

OHSU said this is the first study to confirm previous hypotheses that typical exposure to lead in minuscule amounts increases symptoms of ADHD in some people.

The study tested the blood levels of 386 otherwise healthy children, half of them with ADHD.

Researchers said the children were exposed to safe amounts of lead, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

Results showed that exposure to lead was associated with increased symptoms of ADHD, mostly hyperactivity-impulsivity, in children with a particular gene mutation known as HFE C282Y. That mutation is present in about 10 percent of U.S. children, OHSU said.

The OHSU study also found the effects were more prevalent in boys than in girls.  

“This research is valuable to the scientific community as it bridges genetic and environmental factors and helps to illustrate one possible route to ADHD,”  principal investigator Joel Nigg, Ph.D. said. 

Nigg added that the research findings will help scientists make steps toward preventing conditions like ADHD.   

Although the federal government has set forth regulations that drastically reduce exposure to lead, it can still be found in common items such as toys or jewelry.

Aging pipes can also leave small amounts of lead in water levels, according to scientists.

OHSU scientists clarified that lead exposure is not the only cause of ADHD symptoms, and there is no guarantee that lead exposure will result in ADHD. Other environmental factors and genetics may also play a role.

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