Baby teeth from children with autism contain more toxic lead and less of the essential nutrients zinc and manganese than baby teeth from children without autism, according to an NIEHS-funded study. The findings, published June 1 in Nature Communications, suggest that differences in early-life exposure to metals, and more importantly, how a child’s body processes them, may affect the risk of autism.
“Autism is a condition in which both genes and environment play a role, but figuring out which environmental exposures may increase risk has been difficult,” said lead researcher Manish Arora, Ph.D., an environmental scientist and dentist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Some scientists have proposed that events before we are born may increase our risk of autism, but what is needed is a window into our fetal life – which baby teeth provide,” he added.
Analyzing baby teeth from children with and without autism allowed the researchers to compare patterns of metal uptake across time. In children with autism, they observed higher levels of lead uptake throughout childhood. The greatest difference occurred in the period right after birth.
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