Hyperactivity linked to moms taking Tylenol-type painkilers

On the front page of the Los Angeles Times, Melissa Healy tells a story of a huge study in Scandanavia that shows that the active ingredient in Tylenol and Excedrine and many other over-the-counter medicines is an endocrine disruptor plausibly linked to hyperactivity and other developmental disorders. 

Healy makes a strong case simply by quoting the findings:

In analyzing data on more than 64,000 Danish women and their children, researchers found that kids whose mothers took the painkiller at any point during pregnancy were 29% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than were kids whose mothers took none. The risk increased the most — by 63% — when acetaminophen was taken during the second and third trimesters, and by 28% when used in the third trimester alone.

Could this explain the upsurge in developmental and behaviorial issues linked to mental disorders in recent decades? Healy doesn't speculate. 

Nor does she explain why a known endocrine disruptor, acetaminophen, was allowed to be sold freely without warnings, even when it — like many other products — was suspected capable of harm. 

Endocrine disrupting EDC-figure

[image reference]

She does quote plenty of experts who point out that this is just one study, first of all, and that many doctors — even those aware of the linkage and risk — may continue to prescribe acetominophen to reduce fever and pain.

She doesn't mention that children can overdose and even die fromtaking acetominophen, as dramatized in a blockbuster This American Life, nor that it has been linked by experts to causation of asthma

But she closes on an ominous note:

The international team that conducted the study will next investigate their data for evidence of the neuropsychiatric and other mental health effects of a variety of medications taken during pregnancy. Among the outcomes they will be looking for is autism.



Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

2 thoughts on “Hyperactivity linked to moms taking Tylenol-type painkilers

  1. Be aware that this is not the first study to associate acetaminophen with adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes. The first study, by Brandlistuen et al 2013, found that 3 year old children exposed to long term acetaminophen use during pregnancy had substantially adverse developmental outcomes including a 70% increased risk of behavioral and motor problems, as well as, double the risk of communication problems.

    Additionally, over 20 studies have found an association between the use of acetaminophen and asthma. Acetaminophen use has also been associated with male congenital malformations (cryptorchidism) in several studies.


  2. Thanks for the factual and troubling note. I wonder if we will look back on our blithe acceptance of acetaminophen today much the way we look back now on our blithe acceptance in the 50’s of DDT…except that in this case we’re dosing ourselves, instead of our lands and wildlife.


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