Levels of heavy metals and essential minerals in hair samples of children with autism in Oman: A case-control study

Yahya M. Al-Farsi, Mostafa I. Waly, Marwan M. Al-Sharbati, Mohammed A. Al-Shafaee, Omar A. Al-Farsi, Maha M. Al-Khaduri, Ishita Gupta, Allal Ouhtit, Samir Al-Adawi, Mona F. Al-Said, Richard C. Deth

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Toxic levels of heavy metals and low levels of essential minerals have been suggested to play a critical role in the pathogenesis of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This study documents the levels of heavy metals and essential minerals in hair samples of children with ASD in Muscat, the urbanized capital of Oman, Muscat. The study included 27 children with ASD and 27 matched non-ASD controls. Parental interviews were held and dietary intake questionnaires completed in conjunction with the collection of hair samples. Analysis of heavy metals and essential minerals was carried out by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Chi-square analysis and non-parametric Fisher's exact tests were used to assess statistical significance. Children with ASD had significantly higher levels of all 11 analyzed heavy metals in their hair samples (P <0.05), ranging from 150 to 365 % of control levels. ASD children also had significantly higher levels of essential minerals sulfur, sodium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and iron, but lower levels of calcium and copper in their hair samples. This study corroborates data from previous studies in different parts of the world indicating the presence of elevated levels of heavy metals and selective depletion of essential minerals in the hair of children with ASD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-186
Number of pages6
JournalBiological Trace Element Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013



  • Autism
  • Case-control
  • Essential minerals
  • Hair
  • Heavy metals
  • Oman

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism

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