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Mercury, Lead, and Zinc in Baby Teeth of Children with Autism Versus Controls

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This study determined the level of mercury, lead, and zinc in baby teeth of children with autism spectrum disorder (n = 15, age 6.1 ± 2.2 yr) and typically developing children (n = 11, age = 7 ± 1.7 yr). Children with autism had significantly (2.1-fold) higher levels of mercury but similar levels of lead and similar levels of zinc. Children with autism also had significantly higher usage of oral antibiotics during their first 12 mo of life, and possibly higher usage of oral antibiotics during their first 36 mo of life. Baby teeth are a good measure of cumulative exposure to toxic metals during fetal development and early infancy, so this study suggests that children with autism had a higher body burden of mercury during fetal/infant development. Antibiotic use is known to almost completely inhibit excretion of mercury in rats due to alteration of gut flora. Thus, higher use of oral antiobiotics in the children with autism may have reduced their ability to excrete mercury, and hence may partially explain the higher level in baby teeth. Higher usage of oral antibiotics in infancy may also partially explain the high incidence of chronic gastrointestinal problems in individuals with autism.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Chemical and Materials Engineering, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA 2: Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas, USA

Publication date: 01 January 2007

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