Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine the association of exposures to tobacco smoke and environmental lead with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Methods: Data were obtained from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2002. Prenatal and postnatal tobacco exposure was based on parent report; lead exposure was measured using blood lead concentration. ADHD was defined as having current stimulant medication use and parent report of ADHD diagnosed by a doctor or health professional.
Results: Of 4,704 children 4-15 years of age, 4.2% were reported to have ADHD and stimulant medication use, equivalent to 1.8 million children in the United States. In multivariable analysis, prenatal tobacco exposure [odds ratio (OR) = 2.5; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.2-5.2] and higher blood lead concentration (first vs. fifth quintile, OR = 4.1; 95% CI, 1.2-14.0) were significantly associated with ADHD. Postnatal tobacco smoke exposure was not associated with ADHD (OR = 0.6; 95% CI, 0.3-1.3; p = 0.22). If causally linked, these data suggest that prenatal tobacco exposure accounts for 270,000 excess cases of ADHD, and lead exposure accounts for 290,000 excess cases of ADHD in U.S. children.
Conclusions: We conclude that exposure to prenatal tobacco and environmental lead are risk factors for ADHD in U.S. children.