Toxicological status of children with autism vs. neurotypical children and the association with autism severity

James Adams, Tapan Audhya, Sharon McDonough-Means, Robert A. Rubin, David Quig, Elizabeth Geis, Eva Gehn, Melissa Loresto, Jessica Mitchell, Sharon Atwood, Suzanne Barnhouse, Wondra Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study investigates both the level of toxic metals in children with autism and the possible association of those toxic metals with autism severity. This study involved 55 children with autism ages 5-16 years compared to 44 controls with similar age and gender. The study included measurements of toxic metals in whole blood, red blood cells (RBC), and urine. The autism group had higher levels of lead in RBC (+41 %, p = 0.002) and higher urinary levels of lead (+74 %, p = 0.02), thallium (+77 %, p = 0.0001), tin (+115 %, p = 0.01), and tungsten (+44 %, p = 0.00005). However, the autism group had slightly lower levels of cadmium in whole blood (-19 %, p = 0.003). A stepwise, multiple linear regression analysis found a strong association of levels of toxic metals with variation in the degree of severity of autism for all the severity scales (adjusted R 2 of 0.38-0.47, p < 0.0003). Cadmium (whole blood) and mercury (whole blood and RBC) were the most consistently significant variables. Overall, children with autism have higher average levels of several toxic metals, and levels of several toxic metals are strongly associated with variations in the severity of autism for all three of the autism severity scales investigated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-180
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Trace Element Research
Volume151
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2013

Keywords

  • Autism
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Thallium
  • Toxic metals
  • Tungsten

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical
  • Inorganic Chemistry

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