Lead and smoking blamed for rise in hyperactive children

One-third of all children with attention deficit problems can blame their disability on their mothers smoking in pregnancy and on lead pollution, according to an official US study.

About half a million children in Britain may have the disability, 100,000 of them severely, according to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. Prescriptions of Ritalin, the main drug used to treat it, have soared 180-fold over the past 15 years and now exceed 350,000 a year.

The study – carried out at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center – looked at 4,704 children between the ages of four and 15. It found that those born to mothers who smoked in pregnancy were two and a half times more likely to develop the condition than the children of non-smokers, while those with even relatively low levels of lead in their blood suffered four times the risk.

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