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Study links autism to toxic metals Published: 03-09-13 Contributing Writer Children diagnosed with autism had higher levels of toxic metals in their blood and urine than children without the disorder, according to a study published Feb. 1 in the journal Biological Trace Element Research. Toxic metals in the body can impair brain function and development and interfere with the normal operations of other organs and systems, according to the study, which was conducted by researchers at Arizona State University. “[Autistic children] have a decreased level of glutathione, which is the primary defense against toxic metals,” said James Adams, professor of materials science and engineering at ASU and principal investigator of the study. “It seems likely that the mothers also have lower levels of glutathione.” Researchers tested 55 children between the ages of 5 and 16 who have been diagnosed with autism and compared the results to 44 children of similar age and gender who were judged to be autism-free by the university, according to the study. Researchers found that children diagnosed with autism had six additional nanograms of lead per gram of blood compared to the control group. They also had 0.25 milligrams more lead, .046 milligrams more thallium, 1.36 milligrams more tin and 0.1 milligrams more tungsten in their urine. Researchers also conducted a statistical analysis to determine whether the toxic metal levels could be associated with the severity of the subjects’ autism, according to the study. Adams said he obtained similar results in previous studies published in 2009. He said he believes removing toxic metals in autistic children may be a possible future treatment for the disorder. “These toxic metals seem to be related to autism severity, and

because of previous studies we did that removed [metals], it seems helpful,” Adams said. “I would urge every child with autism to have their levels of toxic metals checked and treated.” one of Adams’ studies published in 2009 investigated the effect of chelation therapy, which uses oral chemicals to remove heavy metals found in the blood, on autistic children 5–8 years old. During phase one, 65 children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder received one round of the therapy. Any child who continued to display high levels of the toxic metals was chosen to progress to phase two, where 49 children were chosen randomly to be given an additional six rounds of either the therapy or a placebo, according to the study. After seven rounds of the chelation therapy, subjects showed a considerable reduction in symptoms of autism, improving by speech, health, physical behavior and sociability awareness standards applied by researchers, according to
the study. Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, associate director of public affairs for the Biomedical and Natural Science programs at the University of Illinois at Chicago, which has a renowned autism research program, said she believes Adams’ most recent study is “quack” because it suggests dangerous treatments for children diagnosed with autism. “Not only are they giving people false hope, but they are recommending something that is generally dangerous,” Galatzer-Levy said. “The Centers for Disease Control has spoken out against the [chelation] therapy, except when used in cases of acute heavy metal poisoning, because there have been deaths associated with those kinds of treatments.” In 2005, a 5-year-old autistic boy from Pennsylvania died while he was receiving intravenous chelation therapy, administered by his physician, according to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published March 3, 2006 on the CDC website. Adams rebutted, saying the drug they were using for their test were Food and Drug Administration-approved for use specifically

children. “It’s an FDA-approved medication, approved by the FDA because it’s safe and effective for removing lead and other toxic metals,” Adams said. “That’s what we used it for and we demonstrated the children improved, and there were no worsening of their liver or
kidney function.” Galatzer-Levy said the study relied too heavily on the credibility of observations of improvement made by the parents of the autistic children who participated. “Parents and people whose children have autism are an extremely vulnerable group,” Galatzer-Levy said. “It is likely [they] will see things that look like progress because [they] want to. So basically, these results are worthless.” Angie Barrett, a special education major at Illinois State University who has a 10-year-old brother with autism, said she hopes this study’s development, as well as future studies, will promote research for more effective
autism treatments. “If [researchers] find an actual medical reason for autism, like if there are [toxic metals] in the blood or something, [they] can make more advances in terms of medicine,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s something that’s curable, but maybe one day they can definitely
improve treatment.”

Study links autism to toxic metals  

An article detailing a study that has linked toxic metals to children with autism.

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