Background and aims: The etiological factors involved in the etiology of autism remain elusive and controversial, but both genetic and environmental factors have been implicated. The aim of this study was to assess the levels and possible environmental risk factors and sources of exposure to mercury, lead, and aluminum in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as compared to their matched controls.
Methods: One hundred ASD children were studied in comparison to 100 controls. All participants were subjected to clinical evaluation and measurement of mercury, lead, and aluminum through hair analysis which reflects past exposure.
Results: The mean Levels of mercury, lead, and aluminum in hair of the autistic patients were significantly higher than controls. Mercury, lead, and aluminum levels were positively correlated with maternal fish consumptions, living nearby gasoline stations, and the usage of aluminum pans, respectively.
Conclusion: Levels of mercury, lead, and aluminum in the hair of autistic children are higher than controls. Environmental exposure to these toxic heavy metals, at key times in development, may play a causal role in autism.