The objective of the study was to investigate hair trace elements content in children suffering from autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A total of 74 ASD children and 74 sex- and age-matched controls divided into two age groups (2-4 and 5-9 years) were investigated. Hair trace elements content was assessed using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. A general cohort of ASD children was characterized by 29 %, 41 %, and 24 % lower hair levels of chromium (Cr), iodine (I), and vanadium (V), respectively, whereas the level of selenium (Se) exceeded the respective control values by 31 %. In ASD children aged 2-4 years hair Cr, I and V content was 68 %, 36 % and 41 % lower than in the controls. Older ASD children were characterized by 45 % increase in hair Se levels. In a general cohort of ASD children hair beryllium (Be) and tin (Sn) levels were 50 % and 34 % lower than the control values. In the first age group (2-4 years) of ASD children 34 %, 42 %, and 73 % lower levels of arsenic (As), boron (B), and Be were detected. In the second age group of ASD children only a nearly significant 25 % decrease in hair lead (Pb) was detected. Surprisingly, no significant group difference in hair mercury (Hg), zinc (Zn), and copper (Cu) content was detected. Generally, the results of the present study demonstrate that children with ASD are characterized by lower values in hair of not only essential but also toxic trace elements.
Keywords: Autism; Children; Hair; Metals; Selenium; Trace elements.