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Acetaminophen Linked to Autism and Other Neurological Disorders in Children

Acetaminophen and autism

Citing new studies linking the analgesic drug acetaminophen (a chemical also known as paracetamol or by brand names Tylenol and Panadol) to the development of neurological conditions such as autism, attention-deficit disorder and hyperactivity in their children, women in the United States have filed 87 lawsuits in seven states against several pharmacies that sell the drug, including Costco, CVS Health, Rite Aid, Safeway, Target, Walgreens and Walmart.1 2 3

The women filing the lawsuits allege that the acetaminophen that they took while they were pregnant caused their children’s neurological problems. They say there are more than 20 peer-reviewed studies that have found an association between the development of brain disorders and the use of the over-the-c0unter analgesic drug, which was licensed in the mid-1950s and is the most widely used physician-recommended pain reliever world-wide. Plaintiff attorneys specifically cite a 2018 study by Hebrew University of Jerusalem published in the American Journal of Epidemiology on Apr. 24, 2018 that found a 30 percent increase in the relative risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, whose pregnant mothers took high amounts of the drug, and a 20 percent increase in relative risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).1 2 4 5

According to Ilan Matok, PhD of the Institute for Drug Research in the School of Pharmacy at Hebrew University:

Our findings suggest an association between prolonged acetaminophen use and an increase in the risk of autism and ADHD.4

However, Dr. Matok added, “the observed increase in risk was small, and the existing studies have significant limitations.”4

A more recent study, which was conducted by researchers at Penn State University and published in PLOS One on Sept. 22, 2022, found an association between the regular use of acetaminophen by pregnant mothers and a 20 percent increased risk of ADHD or sleeping problems in their children by the age of three years.6 7 8

The study authors wrote:

The fact that neurological dysfunction underlies both sleep and attentional issues in children suggests that an important mechanism of influence may be the impact of acetaminophen on prenatal neurology, which may impact the regulation of attention and sleep in the preschool period. On this note, acetaminophen has been found to be associated with reduced brain connectivity of the amygdala, a part of the brain responsible for self-regulation.7 8

One of the concerns about acetaminophen is its role in the depletion of the antioxidant glutathione, which is essential for detoxification. Mark Hyman, MD of the Cleveland Clinic calls glutathione the “mother of all antioxidants, the master detoxifier and maestro of the immune system.”9

Acetaminophen depletes the levels of glutathione in the body, making it harder to excrete harmful toxins. Joseph Mercola, DO has referred to glutathione as the “master antioxidant”—the most powerful antioxidant in the human body, the “one antioxidant” that “keeps all other antioxidants performing at peak levels.”9

Many Doctors Recommend Acetaminophen for Children Before or After Vaccination

Curiously, while the lawsuits against the pharmacies focus on the harm to children believed to have been caused by the effects of acetaminophen to the fetus in the womb, there is no discussion about the possible harm that may result from children being given acetaminophen in large amounts during infancy and early childhood. As noted in a 2017 article published in The Vaccine Reaction, it is standard practice by many family medicine and pediatric practices in the U.S. to recommend that parents give acetaminophen to their children if they come down with a fever, including shortly before or after children get vaccinated because the inflammatory response provoked by vaccines often includes fever.9

The fact that acetaminophen depletes glutathione raises the question of whether the drug should be considered a type of toxin that, in addition to toxic ingredients in vaccines commonly administered to young children, potentially raises toxin levels in the fetus (if the mother gets Tdap and influenza vaccines during pregnancy) and in the bodies of babies given the hepatitis B vaccine on the day of birth, as well as dozens of doses of other vaccines in the first year of life. Depending upon the vaccine, ingredients include  aluminum, thimerosal (ethylmercury), formaldehyde, monosodium glutamate (MSG), polysorbate 80, phenol, borax and more. It is a legitimate question to ask whether it is wise to give infants and children a drug that is known to deplete the body’s master antioxidant at the same time they are given a biological product (vaccines) that also contains toxins.9

The broader issue is why physicians are continuing to routinely recommend a drug that is known to be toxic for children and adults. Acetaminophen is the leading cause of liver failure in the U.S. and one of the most common causes of poisoning, accounting for “100,000 calls to poison centers, roughly 60,000 emergency-room visits and hundreds of deaths each year in the U.S.”9 10 11 12

Doctors, Scientists Caution Against Using Acetaminophen While Pregnant

On Sept. 23, 2021, a “consensus statement” cautioning against the use of acetaminophen during pregnancy was published by Ann Bauer, ScD of the University of Massachusetts in the journal Nature Reviews Endocrinology. The statement was signed by 91 scientists, medical doctors and public health professionals. The statement acknowledges that there is a “growing body of experimental and epidemiological research suggests that prenatal exposure” to acetaminophen “might alter fetal development, which could in turn increase the risks of certain neurodevelopmental, reproductive and urogenital disorders.”13 14 It continues…

As scientists, medical experts and public health professionals, we are concerned about increasing rates of neurological, urogenital and reproductive disorders. We are witnessing disturbing increases in the number of children with cognitive, learning and/or behavioural problems.13

Data support the contribution of environmental exposure during fetal life, including exposure to pharmaceuticals, to these increases in rates of neurological, urogenital and reproductive disorders.13


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Click here to view References:

1 Bloomberg. Walmart, CVS face suits blaming common painkiller for Autism. The Peninsula Sept. 29, 2022.
2 Grzincic B. Acetaminophen, social media addiction cases go before consolidation panel. Reuters Sept. 29, 2022.
3 Kwartler Manus LLC. What is the New Link Between Tylenol and Autism/ADHD? Aug. 8, 2022.
4 Julian H. Excessive acetaminophen use during pregnancy linked to ADHD, Autism. ADHD International May 15, 2018.
5 Masarwa R, Levine H, Gorelik E, Reif S, Perlman A, Matok I. Prenatal Exposure to Acetaminophen and Risk for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Autistic Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review, Meta-Analysis, and Meta-Regression Analysis of Cohort Studies. American Journal of Epidemiology August 2018 187(8): 1817–1827.
6 Lefroy E. Kids are 20% more likely to have ADHD, sleeping problems if mom took Tylenol while pregnant: study. New York Post Sept. 28, 2022.
7 Pratt E. How Taking Tylenol During Pregnancy May Affect Child’s Attention, Sleep. Healthline Sept. 28, 2022.
8 Sznajder KK, Teti DM, Kjerulff KH. Maternal use of acetaminophen during pregnancy and neurobehavioral problems in offspring at 3 years: A prospective cohort study. PLOS One Sept. 28, 2022.
9 Cáceres M. Doctors Prescribe Acetaminophen for Fever After. The Vaccine Reaction Sept. 15, 2017.
10 Osterweil N. Acetaminophen Is Leading Cause of Acute Liver FailureMedpage Today Nov. 30, 2005.
11 Dimitropoulos E, Ambizas EM. Acetaminophen Toxicity: What Pharmacists Need to KnowU.S. Parmacist Mar. 19, 2014.
12 Tylenol. Drugwatch.com
13 Bauer AZ, Swan SH, Kriebel D et al.  Paracetamol use during pregnancy — a call for precautionary action. Nature Reviews Endocrinology 2021 17: 757–766.
14 D’Ambrosio A. Warning on Tylenol in Pregnancy No Cause for Alarm. MedPage Today Oct. 11, 2021.

8 Responses

  1. Glutathione production drops significantly as we age, so the elderly population should show more toxic effects, particular with decreased kidney and liver function related also to age.
    I typically love NVIC but I’m not sure I see causation here. Honesty there is typically a “not to exceed” dose for all people and there is a huge difference between taking one dose for a headache and taking apap 3 times daily. All medications are enzyme disruptors but this one is OTC because used occasionally, it IS fairly benign. The OD I have seen is when someone is either routinely over the NTE dose or takes a too-large dose to begin with. And what do we do? Apap is taken for headache primarily, not fever. What would you have someone do? It is well known that pain inhibits healing also. You can surely question “why the headache” and point to inflammation and seek to rectify it, but there IS no perfect health. And without any options, suffering is not better.
    I still say the issue is prevention and root cause concerns but when the need strikes EVERY OTC comes with concerns. Nothing is totally benign- not your coffee or your toast or your one-hour-less sleep that caused the headache.
    I’m unconvinced apap caused autism. Sorry but I am. I’ve been around this game far too long and your cited author (that I generally like!) convinced a friend of mine that chlorine treated pools would kill her kid so he can’t swim with others.
    Everything will kill you. Think!
    -the most anti vax nurse you will EVER meet and yes, for more years than you will know

  2. This recent study reviews both prenatal and postnatal exposure to acetaminiophen and concludes that postanatal exposure plays a bigger role in causing autism and ADHD.

    https://www.minervamedica.it/it/riviste/minerva-pediatrics/articolo.php?cod=R15Y9999N00A22071303

    In Table 4, this study summarizes 17 lines of evidence and claims that “Based on this evidence, it can be concluded without any reasonable doubt that oxidative stress puts some babies and children at risk of paracetamol-induced neurodevelopmental injury, and that postnatal exposure to paracetamol in those susceptible babies and children is responsible for many if not most cases of ASD.”

    Note that oxidative stress (an overload of pro-oxidants cuased by an infection, antibiotics, pesticides, etc.) causes depletion of glutathione which, in turn, prevents detoxification of NAPQI, a neurotoxic metabolite of acetaminophen that causes autism and ADHD.

  3. Dr. William Shaw, Director and Founder of the Great Plains Laboratory has a video about this topic. I watched it live a number of years ago and wondered why it never got any attention. It is long (over an hour) and it is highly technical (over my head, for sure), but if you believe that all things claimed to be “safe” by the pharmaceutical industry deserve questioning, you will want to watch this. Dr. Shaw is a champion for our autistic folks for so many different reasons—the explanation of the biological route of harm to certain babies from Tylenol being just one of them. My guy is one of those that Dr. Shaw identifies in the video that cannot tolerate acetaminophen at all. Tylenol, is turns out, is NOT safe for my autistic son and he was the one who figured it out first. For him, horrible migraines are the result of just one dose. Assuming OTCs are EQUALLY safe at the specified dose—for every person or infant—just because they are on store shelves is a very big mistake. There are unique differences—both environmental and genetic—that make certain children more vulnerable to vaccines, chemicals and, yes, Tylenol, that can contribute to the development of neurological disorders. I highly suggest this scientific explanation by Dr. Shaw of the potential harm of acetaminophen, especially for our folks on the spectrum.
    https://www.greatplainslaboratory.com/webinars/2016/4/13/increased-acetaminophen-use-appears-to-be-major-cause-of-the-epidemics-of-autism

  4. We tell women to avoid a glass of wine when pregnant but seem to have had no qualms about ingesting other pharmaceuticals as if they are somehow benign compared to a glass of wine. I disagree with nurse April. Acetaminophen has been known to be a liver killer and Vijay’s comment on harm to children seems to indicate that there is no question of harm to babies and fetuses.

  5. How to educate the masses? Why wouldn’t Peds. M.D. avoid Tylenol? Are there no safe alternatives?
    Family member had Paracetamol poisoning as an adult, hospitalized.
    With the current attitude towards opioids and addiction, adults in pain have no where to go.
    Thanks to Von Willebrands I am unable to use anything if not narcotics. (There was only aspirin when I was a kid. I bled alot).
    Suggestions for any of us?
    Great write ups, by the way. You motivate!

  6. My mother and my wife would not take ANY drugs while pregnant. NONE! That is called “the only safe bet”. I used to take 3 aspirin, or 3 ES tylenol, or 3 nuprin for a headache. 2-4 times a day. Almost everyday. In October,2006 I stopped taking drugs, both prescription and over the counter. It took a couple of years but the “end” went away. Since ’06, have had 8-10 scripts of antibiotics (mostly from the dentist), one dose of antihistamine, 5 doses of pain killer (1 for a kidney stone and 4 for a cracked tooth). I have sinus allergies and used to take antihistamines almost every day. Since I stopped, my allergies have decreased by over 75%.

  7. I have to question a statement in the article about Drs suggesting that parents give Tylenol for the ache and fever their child gets after their vaccines. The “Tylenol” causes…… Did you ever consider that it’s not the tylenol after the vaccines, but the vaccines themselves? Pediatricians have many kids as patients who have NOT had any vaccines and throughout their lives amazing things have been noticed…. no cancers, no autoimmune disorders, no ADHD and almost no allergies. If we put things, like aluminum into our children’s bodies and it accumulates with every new injection, what do we expect their little bodies to do with it? (Note; almost all vaccines contain close to the maximum amount of aluminum allowed by law.).. and YET we reinject them with more and more with every vaccine. … the 2nd vaccine puts the accumulation beyond the allowances, but still we add even more chemicals and more and more “vaccines”. The “required” number continues to increase……..

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