Lead Poisoning and Autism - What is the Connection?


Lead can be found in all parts of the environment – soil, water, and air – and even inside our homes. Exposure to lead largely comes from human activities such as burning fossil fuels and the past use of lead paint in homes.

Studies have shown that lead may contribute to the development of autism in children. While lead paint is well known to cause brain and developmental problems, it can also lead to a child having attention problems, reduced IQ, increased aggressive behavior, and poor performance in school. If lead is combined with other risk factors, be them environmental or genetic, studies show that the risk of developing autism is an even greater possibility.

Physical symptoms of lead exposure include abdominal pain, irritability and confusion, and anemia. High levels of lead can cause seizures and even death. Lead can be taken into the body through contaminated water, food, and the air.

Study Suggests Link Between Lead Exposure and Autism in Children

According to a 2017 study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), baby teeth from children with autism contain more harmful lead and less of the healthy nutrients zinc and manganese. The findings, which were published in the journal Nature Communications, suggest that differences in a child’s exposure to metals may affect their risk of developing autism.

The differences in metal uptake between autistic and non-autistic children were especially notable during the months just before and after they were born. The researchers found this by using lasers to map the growth rings in baby teeth during various developmental periods.

Researchers observed higher levels of lead in autistic children throughout development, with the largest disparity found during the period following birth. They also saw a lower uptake of manganese in children with autism – before and after birth. However, children with autism had lower levels of zinc earlier in the womb, and the levels rose after birth.

Dr. Cindy Lawler, head of NIEHS’s Genes, Environment, and Health Branch, said that the scientific community believes that autism begins very early, likely in the womb. “Research suggests that our environment can increase a child’s risk [of autism],” she said. “But by the time children are diagnosed at age 3 or 4, it’s hard to go back and know what the moms were exposed to. With baby teeth, we can actually do that.”

Contact a New York Personal Injury Lawyer

Was your child exposed to lead paint in New York? If so, reach out to Finz & Finz, P.C., as soon as you can. Finz & Finz, P.C., was founded 40 years ago by a former New York State Supreme Court Justice. Our New York personal injury lawyers have extensive experience handling lead poisoning cases. Our track record of success includes a $6,000,000 settlement for a Bronx family whose child suffered from lead poisoning and was diagnosed with autism.

We will discuss all of your legal options when you call (855) TOP-FIRM or contact us online to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

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Finz & Finz, P.C. is a New York and Long Island personal injury law firm based out of Mineola, NY. It was founded in 1984 and is highly rated, with many honors and awards of excellence.