A mother's smoking during pregnancy and exposure to lead significantly increases her child's risk for developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), say researchers.
In fact, as many as one third of cases of ADHD in children are linked to exposure to tobacco smoke and lead before birth, giving moms yet another reason to quit smoking during pregnancy.
It is estimated that somewhere between 3 and 8 percent of U.S. children suffer from ADHD, a disorder that causes difficulty concentrating and sitting still. Additionally, children with ADHD are at a higher risk for problems in school, difficulty making and maintaining friends and even drug abuse, cite the authors of the study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
For the study, researchers from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center surveyed over 4,700 children between the ages of 4 and 15 and their parents. Over 4 percent of the children included had ADHD.
The researchers found that those children whose mother smoked during pregnancy were over twice as likely to develop ADHD than a child whose mother had not smoked. In addition, a child who had been exposed to lead, giving them high lead blood levels, were four times as likely to have ADHD, as compared to a child with low lead levels in his blood.
While previous studies have found some link between exposure to tobacco smoke and ADHD, this is the first large study done on the topic.
Braun hopes that his work demonstrates the importance of public education about prenatal exposure to toxins like lead and tobacco smoke.
"The findings of this study…highlight the need to strengthen public health efforts to reduce prenatal tobacco smoke exposure and childhood lead exposure," he wrote.