The effect of lead exposure on autism development

Aanya Goel, Michael Aschner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) remains one of the most detrimental neurodevelopmental conditions in society today. Common symptoms include diminished social and communication ability. Investigations on autism etiology remain largely ambiguous. Previous studies have highlighted exposure to lead (Pb) may play a role in ASD. In addition, lead has been shown to be one of the most prevalent metal exposures associated with neurological deficits. A semi-systematic review was conducted using public databases in order to evaluate the extent of lead’s role in the etiology of autism. This review examines the relationship between autistic comorbid symptoms—such as deterioration in intelligence scores, memory, language ability, and social interaction—and lead exposure. Specifically, the mechanisms of action of lead exposure, including changes within the cholinergic, dopaminergic, glutamatergic, gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic systems, are discussed. The goal of this review is to help illustrate the connections between lead’s mechanistic interference and the possible furthering of the comorbidities of ASD. Considerations of the current data and trends suggest a potential strong role for lead in ASD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1637
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 2 2021


  • Autism
  • Lead
  • Neurotoxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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