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Breakthrough: ADHD May 17, 2010

Posted by gregquill in Uncategorized.
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You know that disease or disorder we didn’t have in the middle of the 20th century? Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder is a recent affliction, apparently only becoming epidemic with the three martini lunch and the mass exodus of women into the workforce. The Religious Sisters of Murder in my Catholic grade school, when confronted with a hyperactive child (96% of them incorrigible boys) would command his mother to cut out the sugar on his cereal, and then would simply smack him down, screaming at him, “SIDDOWNANDSHADDUP!”

We didn’t know from ADHD.

Now, some high-priced researchers (with apparently nothing better to do) have made an unbelievable discovery. “There is growing concern that these [organophosphates] pesticides may be related to ADHD,” said Marc Weisskopf of the Harvard School of Public Health, who worked on the study. “What this paper specifically highlights is that this may be true even at low concentrations.”

Organophosphates were originally developed for chemical warfare, and they are known to be toxic to the nervous system. There are about 40 organophosphate pesticides such as malathion registered in the U.S., the researchers wrote in the journal Pediatrics. Weisskopf said the compounds have been linked to behavioral symptoms common to ADHD — for instance, impulsivity and attention problems — but exactly how is not fully understood.

Well, what took so long? Of COURSE, we should have seen it, when we caught the kids snacking on the pesticides! And letting those kindergartners continue the research on chemical warfare, unsupervised – we should have KNOWN it would lead to problems. From Wikipedia: “Malathion is an organophosphate parasympathomimetic which binds irreversibly to cholinesterase. Malathion is an insecticide of relatively low human toxicity. In the former USSR it was known as carbophos, in New Zealand and Australia as maldison and in South Africa as mercaptothion.”

OK, I started writing this as a tongue-in-cheek criticism of flighty academics. But now I have changed my mind. Read the Wikipedia article, and it stops being funny.

Malathion has been sprayed to kill fruit flies in California. Extensively, recently. It is also one of only two compounds the FDA recognizes to kill head lice – a common problem in elementary schools. So it must be used a lot. And, mixed with diesel fuel, it is burned by cities across the country on evenings when the winds are calm, in the spring and the summer, to kill mosquitoes.

Oops. I was apparently too hasty, and too glib.

So maybe they have found something after all. Now, why didn’t the Harvard eggheads take a course on how to communicate their findings so that even I could understand them?

Well, I’m afraid the answer is unsettling. The researchers scurry around their labs without ever ending a sentence. They have started skipping their naps. They don’t get jokes longer than two sentences.

Because they must have ADHD.


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