A new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found an association between exposure to certain pesticides and Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, affects an estimated 4.5 million children ages 5 to 17. To give some perspective, the percentage of boys with ADHD is approaching ten percent. And the rates of diagnosis are increasing. Along with environmental factors such as video games, hyperkinetically edited TV shows, and flashing images in educational DVDs aimed at infants, pesticides may account for some of these cases.

Pesticide Waging War on Your Kids

The pesticides studied are organophosphates, which are actually made of the same stuff as chemical warfare nerve agents. They work by inactivating a neurotransmitter called acetylcholinesterase, an essential chemical for nerve functions in humans and many other animals.

Maryse Bouchard and a team of researchers at the University of Montreal and Harvard University analyzed the levels of pesticide residue in the urine of more than 1,100 children ages 8 to 15. They were looking for a relationship between ADHD and exposure to organophosphates. Children with the highest levels of the breakdown products of organophosphate pesticides had the highest incidence of ADHD. Compared to children with undetectable levels of the chemical, researchers found that the presence an above-average level of the most common pesticide metabolite doubled the likelihood of presenting symptoms of ADHD. Bouchard told Time:

"I was quite surprised to see an effect at lower levels of exposure.”

Buy Organic? But at What Cost?

While the study confirmed the link between pesticides and attention disorders, as well as determining that children are getting the chemicals by eating fruits and vegetables that have been sprayed with organophosphate pesticides, it did not give any indication of "safe" levels of pesticide ingestion. Bouchard suggested that “concerned” parents feed their children organically grown fruits and vegetables, or scrub produce to reduce residue. But it’s not so easy to get that organic produce, and removing the residue on the kind of produce most of us buy is not as simple as a quick rinse.

I want to buy organic, I really do. It’s just that the frugal mom in me knows exactly how much money I’m saving buying the cheap stuff. She fights with the nature loving Earth Mama Wannabe who knows natural is best — even if it means $12.99 a pound for peaches. But with (knock on wood) healthy kids at home, I still can’t quite buy into the benefits of organic versus mainstream. I’m not alone and I don’t think the free market is going to take care of this issue. Do you?