Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ADHD, Lead Exposure & Smoking -- "Shocking New Findings?"

My sister directed this AOL article to me: "Smoking, Lead Exposure Increase ADHD Risk," by Stephanie Booth.

In it, is the not surprising conclusion that children, exposed in utero, to tobacco smoke and/or lead, had a statistically higher risk of being diagnosed with ADHD. Specifically, "children exposed prenatally to tobacco smoke had a 2.4-fold increased likelihood of ADHD diagnosis. Those whose blood showed what researchers categorized as high lead levels were 2.3 times more likely to have ADHD. Exposure to both lead and prenatal tobacco triggered what head researcher Tanya Froehlich, M.D., a developmental and behavioral pediatric specialist and assistant professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center,called an alarming 'synergistic effect.' Children in this category had eight times the risk of being diagnosed with ADHD."

I say these "findings" are "not surprising" because, as I've been saying for many years, everything from a ADD (and even speech and language delays that eventually lead to further diagnoses) to full blown autism are probably caused by the same thing ? a genetic predisposition to harm and an exposure to one or more environmental insults. The only thing that varies is the severity and manifestation of harm.

Throw in societal "insults," e.g., over exposure to television, video games, computers (both in terms of content, format & presentation, and the devices themselves), and poor eating and nutrition, and you have a perfect recipe for brain and nervous system development problems.

I think it interesting that science can find links to ADHD and ASD etc., but they can't find "the cause." Why? Well, if you want my humble opinion, no one will ever find "the cause" because there probably is no single cause. The combination of factors ? exposure to environmental insults, the timing of that exposure, the extent of that exposure, the nutrition/eating habits of the mother and child (before, during and after pregnancy (if breast feeding), breast feeding habits, vaccination issues (timing, content, number), exposure to smoking, lead, mercury, airplane fuel, electromagnetic radiation, etc., childrearing practices, and media exposure. The list goes on and on.

Who could possibly device a test for all these things and the infinite combinations possible? And, note, the combinations are worse than the sum of the parts.

Worse, and I hate to say it, who really wants the truth? I mean, what happens if someone definitively proves that vaccines really do cause harm? Or overprescription of antibiotics? Or exposure to cell phones, microwaves, Wi-Fi? Or too many video games? Or that fast food, convenience foods, genetically engineered foods, baby formula, is actually harmful?

Can we, as a society, deal with the economic impact of such findings? Are you ready to give up your cell phone?

So, instead of pouring resources into the Sisyphean Task of finding "the cause," why not focus on prevention and treatment. Admit that there is potential danger out there. Take steps to minimize the risks these children face. And, figure out a way to reverse the damage.

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