Biological Trace Element Research

, Volume 142, Issue 2, pp 148–158 | Cite as

Level of Trace Elements (Copper, Zinc, Magnesium and Selenium) and Toxic Elements (Lead and Mercury) in the Hair and Nail of Children with Autism

  • Malarveni Damodaran Lakshmi Priya
  • Arumugam Geetha


Autism is a multi-factorial pathology observed in children with altered levels of essential and elevated levels of toxic elements. There are also studies reporting a decrease in nutritional trace elements in the hair and nail of autistic children with healthy controls; moreover, bioelements have been shown to play an important role in the central nervous system. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to assess the levels of trace elements like copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), magnesium (Mg), and selenium (Se) and toxic elements like mercury (Hg), and lead (Pb) in the hair and nail samples of autistic children and to evaluate whether the level of these elements could be correlated with the severity of autism. The subjects of the study were 45 autistic children with different grades of severity (low (LFA), medium (MFA), and high (HFA) functioning autism) according to Childhood Autism Rating Scale, n = 15 children in each group and 50 healthy children (age and sex matched). The boys and girls ratio involved in this study was 4:1, and they were 4-12 years of age. The study observed a valid indication of Cu body burden in the autistic children. The children with different grades of autism showed high significance (p < 0.001) in the level of copper in their hair and nail samples when compared to healthy controls. The level of Cu in the autistic children could be correlated with their degree of severity (more the Cu burden severe is autism). The study showed a significant elevation (p < 0.001) in the levels of toxic metals Pb and Hg in both hair and nail samples of autistic children when compared to healthy control group. The elevation was much pronounced in LFA group subjects when compared among autistic groups MFA and HFA. The levels of trace elements Mg and Se were significantly decreased (p < 0.001) in autistic children when compared to control. The trace element Zn showed significant variation in both hair and nails of LFA group children when compared to control group and other study groups. The significant elevation in the concentration of Cu, Pb, and Hg and significant decrease in the concentration of Mg and Se observed in the hair and nail samples of autistic subjects could be well correlated with their degrees of severity.


Autism Hair Nail Trace elements Degrees of severity 



The author MDLP thanks Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi for their financial assistance. Both the authors (MDLP and AG) thank V-Excel Educational Trust (the school for special children), Mandaveli, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India and the parents of autistic children for their cooperation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Malarveni Damodaran Lakshmi Priya
    • 1
  • Arumugam Geetha
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiochemistryBharathi Women’s CollegeChennaiIndia

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