Smoking while pregnant, lead exposure, and ADHD.

smoking cigarette during pregnancy adhd lead

A recent study published in the scientific journal Pediatrics examined whether mothers who smoke during pregnancy, and children who are exposed to lead, may increase the chance that a child develops ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). The authors, from both the United States and Canada, examined the data of over 2500 participants aged 8 to 15 years of age.

Smoking during Pregnancy and ADHD

When the authors looked for any indication that prenatal tobacco use, such as mothers smoking during pregnancy, could predict whether their children would develop ADHD, they found that mothers who smoke were more likely to have children who develop ADHD relative to mothers who did not smoke during pregnancy. This result adds to a growing body of evidence demonstrating that smoking during pregnancy is dangerous to a developing fetus and can have long-term implications for a child's well-being.

Lead Exposure and ADHD

When the authors looked for any indication that exposing children to lead, such as living in a house with unprotected lead paint or drinking and cooking with water from lead pipes, could predict ADHD development, they found that children exposed to lead were more likely to develop ADHD than those who were not exposed to lead.

Smoking during Pregnancy, Lead Exposure, and ADHD

When the authors looked at whether both smoking during pregnancy, and childhood lead exposure, would be a valuable predictor of ADHD, they found that exposure to both of these toxins leads to even higher rates of ADHD.


It seems that there are many risks from both the fetus environment and the environment of a growing child that can predict whether a child will develop ADHD, in this case whether a mother smokes during pregnancy and whether the child is exposed to lead while growing up. Reducing smoking during pregnancy and minimizing lead exposure may eventually prove effective guidelines for parents wondering how to prevent ADHD. Of course, the etiology of ADHD is much more complex than that, but this is a little step forward.

Scientific Resources:

Froehlich, T. E., Lanphear, B. P., Auinger, P., Hornung, R., Epstein, J. N., Braun, J., & Kahn, R. S. (2009). Association of tobacco and lead exposures with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Pediatrics, 124, e1054-e1063.

Tags: science , pregnancy
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