Connecting inorganic mercury and lead measurements in blood to dietary sources of exposure that may impact child development

World J Methodol. 2021 Jul 20;11(4):144-159. doi: 10.5662/wjm.v11.i4.144.


Pre-natal and post-natal chemical exposures and co-exposures from a variety of sources including contaminated air, water, soil, and food are common and associated with poorer birth and child health outcomes. Poor diet is a contributing factor in the development of child behavioral disorders. Child behavior and learning can be adversely impacted when gene expression is altered by dietary transcription factors such as zinc insufficiency or deficiency or by exposure to toxic substances permitted in our food supply such as mercury, lead, or organophosphate pesticide residue. Children with autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders exhibit decreased or impaired PON1 gene activity which is needed by the body to metabolize and excrete neurotoxic organophosphate pesticides. In this current review we present an updated macroepigenetic model that explains how dietary inorganic mercury and lead exposures from unhealthy diet may lead to elevated blood mercury and/or lead levels and the development of symptoms associated with the autism and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorders. PON1 gene activity may be suppressed by inadequate dietary calcium, selenium, and fatty acid intake or exposures to lead or mercury. The model may assist clinicians in diagnosing and treating the symptoms associated with these childhood neurodevelopmental disorders. Recommendations for future research are provided based on the updated model and review of recently published literature.

Keywords: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; Autism; Inorganic mercury; Lead; Paraoxonase 1; Selenium.

Publication types

  • Review