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Autism linked to specific toxic metals

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Researchers suggest heavy metals in the bloodstream contribute to autism.

In a new study, researchers have found children with autism have higher levels of lead in their bloodstream and urine. When scientists compared children without the condition, they also found higher levels of other toxic metals. The finding suggests reducing exposure to metals early in life or other detoxifying treatments might help control symptoms of autism.

The study, recently published in the journal Biological Trace Element Research, included 55 children with autism spectrum disorder, age 5 to 16 who were compared to children of the same age and gender without autism.

Cadmium and mercury levels strongly associated

In addition to higher levels of lead, children with autism had higher levels of thallium, tin and tungsten in the bloodstream.

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The researchers analyzed severity of autism, finding a link between several heavy metals. They found 38 to 47 percent of the strongest variations correlated with cadmium and mercury.

The researchers say more studies should be done to find out if treatments to remove heavy metals that can impair brain development and function would help with symptoms.

The authors also recommend reducing childhood exposure to toxic metals. Past studies have shown that even low levels of exposure to lead during childhood can impair intellectual development. Thallium, tin and tungsten can also interfere with normal brain development.

James Adams, a professor of materials science and engineering directs the ASU Autism/Asperger’s Research Program. He previously found DMSA, an FDA-approved medication for removing toxic metals improved symptoms of autism. The new study shows children with the disorder have higher levels of heavy metals. DMSA improved symptoms for those with the highest levels.

Arizona State University
February 25, 2013

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