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TITLE: Assessment of chemical factors in relation to child hyperactivity.
AUTHOR AFFILIATION: ICP-MS Facility, Dep. Chem., Univ. Surrey, Guildford, Surrey GU2 5XH, UK.
BIOSIS COPYRIGHT: BIOL ABS. A questionnaire evaluation of 486 hyperactive children (HA) (82% boys, aged 7-13 years and 18% girls, aged 8-13 years) showed that more than 60% of cases reported a positive behavioural response (i.e. increased problems) in relation to consuming or being exposed to synthetic colourings and flavourings, food and beverage preservatives, cow's milk and associated products, chemical detergents and perfume. In contrast, 172 sex- and age-matched control children (C) reported only 12% of cases responding to synthetic colourings and flavourings and chemical solvents. The main health problems reported by the 96% of hyperactive children affected by synthetic colourings and flavourings were persistent thirst problems, the development of eczema, ear and/or chest infections, and the production of excessive amounts of catarrh. Trace element measurements undertaken by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry showed that a low zinc and iron status is associated with hyperactive children when compared with control children for blood serum, urine and washed scalp hair (HA < C). In many cases, hyperactive children also had very highly significant raised levels of aluminium, cadmium and/or lead (HA > C), particularly in urine and washed scalp hair samples. Hyperactive children with a known behavioural response following the consumption of a beverage containing tartrazine, E102 (n = 23), sunset yellow, E110 (n = 12) and amaranth, E123 (n = 12) were given a dose of chemical food colour (50 mg) and their zinc levels (blood serum and urine) and behavioural activity were monitored for 120 min. A sex- and age-matched control group was also studied. Only hyperactive children showed a significant reduction in blood serum zinc levels and an increase in urinary zinc output following the consumption of E102 and E110. Amaranth had no effect on their zinc status over the study time period. There were no significant changes in the zinc levels for control children for all three chemical food colours. The main behavioural changes were observed in the hyperactive children given E102 and E110. For the 23 children who consumed a tartrazine beverage there were increased levels of overactivity (n = 18 children), aggressive (n = 16) and/or violent (n = 4) activity, poor speech (n = 2), poor coordination (n = 12), and the development of asthma and/or eczema (n = 8). Most of these were severe or moderate changes. Only one control child showed minor behavioural responses to tartrazine.