According to a new study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, there is a link between exposure to phthalate chemicals and the development of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in school-aged children. The Korean study examined students who were identified as having ADHD symptoms, measuring the phthalate chemicals found in their urine, and compared this information with students without symptoms of the disorder. Not surprisingly, the researchers found that children who were identified as having ADHD symptoms were more likely to have higher levels of phthalate chemical markers in their urine than those who do not have ADHD symptoms.
ADHD is a common behavioral disorder marked by impulsive behavior, overly active movement and lack of attention. It is currently estimated that about 6 to 7 percent of children in the United States have ADHD. This is the first human study to find a link between ADHD and exposure to phthalates, a common ingredient in many plastics best known for their roles in keeping plastics soft and liquids mixed.
One interesting point is that phthalates leave the body rather quickly, so the study's results reflect recent exposure rather than past exposures. Yet, the roots of ADHD likely extend back to early development in the womb. It's unclear exactly when and how phthalate exposure could lead to the development of ADHD. More studies that focus on the relationship between prenatal phthalate exposure and the development of ADHD in children might help researchers get a better understanding of the disorder and it's relationship to phthalates.