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Analysis of lead, arsenic and calcium content in the hair of children with autism spectrum disorder

  • Fiłon, Joanna1
  • Ustymowicz-Farbiszewska, Jolanta2
  • Krajewska-Kułak, Elżbieta1
  • 1 Medical University of Bialystok, Marii Sklodowskiej-Curie 7A, Bialystok, 15-096, Poland , Bialystok (Poland)
  • 2 Medical University of Bialystok, Bialystok, 15-089, Poland , Bialystok (Poland)
Published Article
BMC Public Health
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
Mar 23, 2020
DOI: 10.1186/s12889-020-08496-w
Springer Nature


BackgroundExplanation of the pathogenesis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is one of the most significant challenges for scientists today. It is believed that a major pathogenetic factor of this condition is epigenetic changes caused by environmental factors, including toxic metals (cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), aluminium (Al), and arsenic (As)). The nervous system may also be affected by deficiencies of both micro- and macroelements (e.g. calcium (Ca), zinc (Zn)). The aim of the study was to analyze the concentrations of Pb, As, and Ca in the hair of children with ASD and a control group.MethodsThe materials for the study comprised hair samples collected from 30 children diagnosed with ASD (case group) and 30 children randomly selected from the general population of Bialystok and surrounding region (control group). Concentrations of Pb, As, and Ca were tested with electron microscopy scanning method. Next, the content of the analyzed elements in the hair was assessed as well as their impact on autism development in the children and the mutual interactions between them. The obtained results were statistically analyzed with Statistica PL 12.5., using the Mann-Whitney U test, and Spearman correlation coefficient.ResultsMean Ca level in the hair of the case group was lower than the mean level of this element in the control group. Mean As and Pb concentration in the hair of children with ASD was statistically significantly higher than the mean concentration of this element in the hair of children without neurological disorders. Statistically insignificant weak positive correlations between Ca and As content and negative between Ca and Pb in the hair of children from the case group were noted. Also, statistically significant mean positive correlations between Pb and As were observed.ConclusionsIn this small study, according to the observations, children diagnosed with ASD suffer from Ca deficiency and toxic metal overload (As and Pb). These abnormalities may play the main role, as an environmental factor, in the pathogenesis of the analyzed disorder.

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