Blood Mercury, Arsenic, Cadmium, and Lead in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Biol Trace Elem Res. 2018 Jan;181(1):31-37. doi: 10.1007/s12011-017-1002-6. Epub 2017 May 8.


Environmental factors have been implicated in the etiology of autism spectrum disorder (ASD); however, the role of heavy metals has not been fully defined. This study investigated whether blood levels of mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and lead of children with ASD significantly differ from those of age- and sex-matched controls. One hundred eighty unrelated children with ASD and 184 healthy controls were recruited. Data showed that the children with ASD had significantly (p < 0.001) higher levels of mercury and arsenic and a lower level of cadmium. The levels of lead did not differ significantly between the groups. The results of this study are consistent with numerous previous studies, supporting an important role for heavy metal exposure, particularly mercury, in the etiology of ASD. It is desirable to continue future research into the relationship between ASD and heavy metal exposure.

Keywords: Autism spectrum disorder; Developmental neurotoxicity; Heavy metals.

MeSH terms

  • Arsenic / blood*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / blood*
  • Cadmium / blood*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lead / blood*
  • Male
  • Mercury / blood*


  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Arsenic