Does Lead Have a Connection to Autism? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

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Abstract

Environmental pollutants, particularly toxic trace metals with neurotoxic potential, have been related to the genesis of autism. One of these metals that stands out, in particular, is lead (Pb). We conducted an in-depth systematic review and meta-analysis of peer-reviewed studies on Pb levels in biological materials retrieved from autistic children (cases) and neurotypical children (controls) in this work. A systematic review was conducted after the careful selection of published studies according to established criteria to gain a broad insight into the higher or lower levels of Pb in the biological materials of cases and controls, and the findings were then strengthened by a meta-analysis. The meta-analysis included 17 studies (hair), 13 studies (whole blood), and 8 studies (urine). The overall number of controls/cases was 869/915 (hair), 670/755 (whole blood), and 344/373 (urine). This meta-analysis showed significantly higher Pb levels in all three types of biological material in cases than in controls, suggesting a higher body Pb burden in autistic children. Thus, environmental Pb exposure could be related to the genesis of autism. Since no level of Pb can be considered safe, the data from this study undoubtedly point to the importance of regularly monitoring Pb levels in autistic children.

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Stojsavljević, A., Lakićević, N., & Pavlović, S. (2023, September 1). Does Lead Have a Connection to Autism? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Toxics. Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI). https://doi.org/10.3390/toxics11090753

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