A new study is suggesting that car and truck exhaust fumes contribute the ADHD in children. The study was performed in the New York City area, with mothers followed from the time they were pregnant until after those children were 9 years old.
This is not the first study to link environmental pollution to ADHD, but one of the stronger studies showing connections between specific pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (known as PAHs) and attention-deficit behaviors.
The researchers found that children whose mothers had the highest amounts of the PAH at the time of birth were five times more likely to show more behaviors associated with inattention than children whose mothers had the lowest levels. They were three times more likely to exhibit more total behaviors (inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity) associated with ADHD.
The study did not diagnose ADHD in these kids, but instead used some of the tests for ADHD to measure attention disorders. The findings of the study include that exposure to these PAH chemicals while pregnant correlates with known harmful compounds attached to DNA in the mother at birth, and subsequent attention-deficit behaviors exhibited by the young children.
It is important to acknowledge that the research did not also test for lead and other chemicals that are already known to contribute to ADHD and attention problems. But since it is known that these PAH chemicals damage DNA in the mother's blood, and mimic natural hormones, they specifically tested for them.
The good news is that we already acknowledged how harmful exhaust fumes can be, and recent resrictions on deisel fumes and improvements in vehicle exhaust systems have definitely reduced the amount of PAH we are inhaling in urban areas.
ADHD is a very common co-occurring disorder associated with substance abuse and addiction. It is fairly common to learn that individuals addicted to pharmaceuticals had started using them as a form of self-medication for underlying behavioral disorders, including attention disorders like ADHD. Part of treatment for substance abuse is clinical assessment, which heps identify these co-occurring issues, and of course get them properly addressed and treated.