Once nerve agents of chemical warfare, organophosphates are now commonly used in agricultural pesticides that dust many of our industrial crops and are commonly used in home gardens, too. Organophosphates are naturally occurring biological esters of phosphoric acid important to live. Both DNA and RNA are organophosphates. When used agriculturally, organophosphates are highly toxic to bees and other wildlife in addition to the bugs under target. Humans are highly susceptible to the toxic nature of organophosphates, too. Even low levels of exposure in the fetal state and during early childhood can lead to neurological development problems.

Different forms of organophosphates come with different risks at different levels of exposure. They all act on brain chemicals closely associated with ADHD, thereby putting at increased risk children exposed during early childhood or in the womb. Attention deficit disorders may not become apparent until years after fetal exposure. The higher the degree of fetal exposure, the higher a child’s chance of developing symptoms of ADHD.

Birth weight and gestational age are adversely affected by exposure in the womb to organophosphates, according to a 2012 study published in the professional journal, Environmental Health Perspectives. The study cites diet and the use of pesticides in the home as important routes of exposure outside the agricultural industry.

To Minimize Exposure


  • Buy organically grown fruits, grains, and vegetables

The most popular fruits typically treated with organophosphates include apples, blueberries, cranberries, peaches, and strawberries.

Treated grains include sweet and field corn as well as small grains that include barley, oats, and wheat.

Vegetables likely to be treated with organophosphates when grown conventionally include beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, peas, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes. Greens often treated include endive, lettuces, mustard greens, and spinach.

< Common Household Chemicals

Source: “Organophosphates (pdf).” State of New Jersey. n.d. Web. Dec 4, 2013.