ADHD Has Doubled Among Girls

A new national study documents rising rates of ADHD, including in young girls. Unfortunately, there is no discussion of the environmental factors that can contribute to ADHD or how to control them.

Our 2015 study on autism and ADHD demonstrated that mothers with high scores on the validated, 50-item chemical intolerance questionnaire—the QEESI—had triple the risk of having a child with autism, and more than double the risk of having a child with ADHD. Parents can quickly determine whether they may be chemically intolerant and their child may be at increased risk by taking the QEESI questionnaire which is available at no charge.

The fact that TILT involves two steps has kept doctors from recognizing underlying factors. TILT initiators include pesticides and indoor air pollutants associated with new construction or remodeling. Subsequently, even minimal exposure to common fragrances, cleaning agents, foods and medications that never bothered the person before, and don’t bother most people, may trigger neurological and behavioral symptoms such as mood, memory and concentration difficulties, but also headaches and breathing problems.

Because TILT is a two-step mechanism, people may never suspect that the pesticides or fragrances used in their homes have anything to do with their child’s school performance or oppositional behavior. Products like these are heavily promoted—no one wants bugs indoors or their house to smell bad. Fragrances should never be used to mask mold odors, instead the source of water or dampness needs to be addressed. Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which emphasizes nontoxic control measures, should be used whenever possible.

Below is a table taken directly from our 2015 study, with helpful ways to avoid harmful chemicals.

Instead of Using… Try Using…
Pesticides indoors or on lawns; mothballs Baits or traps to control bugs indoors (avoid attracting bugs by tightly sealing foods, including pet foods)
Paints, varnishes, glues, and polishes with high solvent content Paints with low solvent content, water-based finishes and glues (have these applied when you are away from home)
Bleach, ammonia, disinfectants, and strong cleaning products “Elbow grease,” soap and water, baking soda, and vinegar
Scented products, perfumes, air fresheners, and incense Unscented cleansers, laundry detergent, fabric softeners, and cosmetics
Hair coloring, permanents, hair spray, or any aerosol product New haircut and unscented hair gel or styling products that do not require spraying
Dry cleaning, odorous soft plastic toys, or mattress covers Washable toys, bedding, and clothes
Odorous flooring (eg, vinyl, pressed wood, or particle board) or carpeting, which can also trap allergens Ceramic/stone tile or hardwood floors
Commercial foods/beverages that may contain pesticides or other questionable ingredients Organic foods and foods without additives or artificial colors
Plastic food containers Glass, stainless steel containers


The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, used data from the National Health Interview Survey, an annual federal survey of about 35,000 households. It found a steady increase in ADHD diagnoses among children from about 6% of children between 1997 and 1998 to more than 10% between 2015 and 2016. In girls the rate doubled from 3% to 6%.

-Dr. Claudia Miller