Autism: a form of lead and mercury toxicity

Environ Toxicol Pharmacol. 2014 Nov;38(3):1016-24. doi: 10.1016/j.etap.2014.10.005. Epub 2014 Nov 6.


Aim: Autism is a developmental disability characterized by severe deficits in social interaction and communication. The definite cause of autism is still unknown. The aim of this study is to find out the relation between exposure to Lead and/or mercury as heavy metals and autistic symptoms, dealing with the heavy metals with chelating agents can improve the autististic symptoms.

Method: Blood and hair samples were obtained from 45 children from Upper Egypt with autism between the ages of 2 and 10 years and 45 children served as controls in the same age range, after taken an informed consent and fill a questionnaire to assess the risk factors. The samples were analyzed blindly for lead and mercury by using atomic absorption and ICP-MS. Data from the two groups were compared, then follow up of the autistic children after treatment with chelating agents were done.

Results: The results obtained showed significant difference among the two groups, there was high level of mercury and lead among those kids with autism. Significant decline in the blood level of lead and mercury with the use of DMSA as a chelating agent. In addition, there was decline in the autistic symptoms with the decrease in the lead and mercury level in blood.

Conclusion: Lead and mercury considered as one of the main causes of autism. Environmental exposure as well as defect in heavy metal metabolism is responsible for the high level of heavy metals. Detoxification by chelating agents had great role in improvement of those kids.

Keywords: Autism; Autistic symptoms; Chelating agents; Heavy metals.

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / blood
  • Autistic Disorder / chemically induced*
  • Autistic Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chelating Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Chelating Agents / pharmacology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lead / blood
  • Lead / toxicity*
  • Male
  • Mercury / blood
  • Mercury / toxicity*
  • Risk Factors
  • Succimer / administration & dosage*
  • Succimer / pharmacology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Chelating Agents
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Lead
  • Succimer
  • Mercury