Exposure to manganese in drinking water during childhood and association with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: A nationwide cohort study

Jörg Schullehner, Malene Thygesen, Søren Munch Kristiansen, Birgitte Hansen, Carsten Bøcker Pedersen, Søren Dalsgaard

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    26 Citations (Scopus)


    BACKGROUND: Manganese (Mn) in drinking water may increase the risk of several neurodevelopmental outcomes, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Earlier epidemiological studies on associations between Mn exposure and ADHD-related outcomes had small sample sizes, lacked spatiotemporal exposure assessment, and relied on questionnaire data (not diagnoses)—shortcomings that we address here. OBJECTIVE: Our objective was to assess the association between exposure to Mn in drinking water during childhood and later development of ADHD. METHODS: In a nationwide population-based registry study in Denmark, we followed a cohort of 643,401 children born 1992–2007 for clinical diagnoses of ADHD. In subanalyses, we classified cases into ADHD-Inattentive and ADHD-Combined subtypes based on hierarchical categorization of International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-10 codes. We obtained Mn measurements from 82,574 drinking water samples to estimate longitudinal exposure during the first 5 y of life with high spatiotemporal resolution. We modeled exposure as both peak concentration and time-weighted average. We estimated sex-specific hazard ratios (HRs) in Cox proportional hazards models adjusted for age, birth year, socioeconomic status (SES), and urbanicity. RESULTS: We found that exposure to increasing levels of Mn in drinking water was associated with an increased risk of ADHD-Inattentive subtype, but not ADHD-Combined subtype. After adjusting for age, birth year, and SES, females exposed to high levels of Mn (i.e., >100 lg=L) at least once during their first 5 y of life had an HR for ADHD-Inattentive subtype of 1.51 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.18, 1.93] and males of 1.20 (95% CI: 1.01, 1.42) when compared with same-sex individuals exposed to <5 lg=L. When modeling exposure as a time-weighted average, sex differences were no longer present. DISCUSSION: Mn in drinking water was associated with ADHD, specifically the ADHD-Inattentive subtype. Our results support earlier studies suggesting a need for a formal health-based drinking water guideline value for Mn. Future Mn-studies should examine ADHD subtype-specific associations and utilize direct subtype measurements rather than relying on ICD-10 codes alone. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP6391.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number097004
    Number of pages10
    JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020

    Programme Area

    • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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