Pica and elevated blood lead level in autistic and atypical children

Am J Dis Child. 1976 Jan;130(1):47-8. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.1976.02120020049007.


Children with severely atypical development often display pica, habitual mouthing, and odd food preferences as symptoms from the first year of life. Such children can ingest dangerous amounts of lead even in environments that are usually considered safe. Mean blood lead concentration was notably higher in 18 autistic children than in 16 nonautistic psychotic children or in ten normal siblings. Fifteen (44%) of the psychotic children (autistic and nonautistic) had blood lead levels greater than two standard deviations above the mean for normal controls. Behavioral and neurological sequelae of elevated blood lead level may be obscured in severely disorganized children. Screening for blood lead should be part of the medical care of these vulnerable children with pica.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autistic Disorder / blood*
  • Autistic Disorder / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Autistic Disorder / complications
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Proteins
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dimercaprol / therapeutic use
  • Edetic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Haloperidol / therapeutic use
  • Hemoglobins
  • Humans
  • Lead / blood*
  • Lead Poisoning / complications
  • Lead Poisoning / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Pica / blood
  • Pica / complications*
  • Psychotic Disorders / blood*
  • Psychotic Disorders / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Psychotic Disorders / complications


  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Proteins
  • Hemoglobins
  • Dimercaprol
  • Lead
  • Edetic Acid
  • Haloperidol