Is Tylenol (Acetaminophen) Driving The Increased Rates of Autism?
“No study found Tylenol to be safe.” The team of scientists behind this research firmly believe that Tylenol is likely driving the skyrocketing rates of autism.
If you’re still giving your kids acetaminophen (Tylenol), then you have to listen to this podcast episode. If you’re not a fan of podcasts, the research paper is linked below for you to read.
Our family stopped using acetaminophen years ago, and I would suggest others seriously consider removing this drug from their medicine cabinets.
Of course, I’m Simply A Dad not a doctor. Listen to the interview, read the research, and then make your own decision. This is for informational purposes and not considered medical advice.
Is Tylenol To Blame For The Autism Epidemic (HHF Podcast #10)
While most docs believe acetaminophen is perfectly safe, there is compelling research that shows this popular over the counter medicine comes with great risks. Children given Tylenol or acetaminophen are more likely to develop autism, asthma, ADHD, lowered IQ, and behavior problems.
My guest on this episode of the podcast is Dr. William Parker, professor at Duke University. Dr. Parker is a well respected scientist and researcher. He led a team of researchers from Harvard and Duke who reviewed all the studies done on acetaminophen in children.
Their team published a peer-reviewed critical review of this research. This critical review led Dr. Parker to firmly believe that Tylenol (acetaminophen) is a major contributor to the autism epidemic.
Happy Healthy Family Podcast Episode #010
with Dr. William Parker
Available On Your Favorite Podcast Player (click below)
- Icebreaker Questions: Worse job involved climbing in pipes with rats jumping on them
- What led Dr. Parker to begin looking at autism
- How studying inflammation led to researching acetaminophen
- How inflammation contributes to autism
- Acetaminophen is inflammatory and immunosuppressive
- Fevers aren’t necessarily bad
- How the body breaks down Tylenol and important nutrients needed for acetaminophen metabolism
- Why kids brains are more affected than their livers
- Acetaminophen is linked to ADHD, asthma, behavior problems, lowered IQ…etc
- We discuss his study and findings on Tylenol(acetaminophen)
- Younger children are more at risk
- One dose is all it takes
- The terrible trio: acetaminophen+inflammation+oxidative stress
- Oxidative stress combined with acetaminophen seems to be more causative than acetaminophen alone
- How parents know if their children have oxidative stress
- Circumcision and autism
- South Korea’s higher rate of autism linked with too much acetaminophen
- The spike in autism rates correlates with the sudden shift away from asprin to Tylenol in the 80s.
- Acetaminophen would not make it passed modern day drug approval
- Dr. Parker’s take on vaccines and autism
- Why doctors still recommend Tylenol
Summary Of Dr. Parker’s (and his Team) Findings:
Written By Dr. William Parker:
1. Eight peer-reviewed studies* now demonstrate that acetaminophen exposure is neurotoxic to the developing brain of humans. Seven of these studies evaluated the effect on children following exposure in utero. Effects of exposure evaluated by various groups included lowered IQ, autism, and behavioral problems. The only study to evaluate the effect of exposure after birth found more than a 60-fold greater risk (literally) of developing autism following exposure after birth than studies looking at the risk of exposure before birth.
2. A very wide range of factors, all of which are associated with inflammation and oxidative stress, are in turn associated with an increased risk of autism. Thus, it appears that whatever is inducing the epidemic of autism probably acts in concert with inflammation and oxidative stress. This conclusion is consistent with the hypothesis that acetaminophen exposure to infants and children after birth is a leading cause of autism.
3. Laboratory animals develop permanent brain damage, characterized by problems with social function, when they are exposed to acetaminophen during an early period of brain development that corresponds to human infancy.
4. Margaret McCarthy, chair of pharmacology at the University of Maryland, has elucidated the mechanism by which acetaminophen damages the developing brain, and has explained why acetaminophen is more dangerous to males than to females. This potentially accounts for the increased propensity for males to acquire autism compared to females.
5. Acetaminophen substantially alters brain chemistry, and temporarily impairs awareness of social issues in adult humans. Although the drug could naively be considered to be anti-inflammatory, exposure to the drug actually causes inflammation, even in healthy adults, and depletes metabolic components needed to deal with inflammation. Further, the drug is immunosuppressive, blocking an important immune function (the febrile response).
6. No study has ever shown acetaminophen to be safe for the developing brain of a human or a laboratory animal. A major manufacturer of acetaminophen in the US acknowledges that the drug was never proven safe for brain development when used during pregnancy or in childhood. All safety tests that have been conducted were performed with the assumption that any side effects would be acute in nature (e.g., bleeding or organ damage soon after administration of the drug).
7. A very wide range of circumstantial evidence** points toward the potential for acetaminophen to be at the root of many if not most cases of autism:
(a) The epidemiology of autism matches the historic use of acetaminophen, with both rising sharply in the early 1980s following the identification of Reye Syndrome as a possible side effect of aspirin use in children.
(b) The qualitative nature of autism apparently shifted from infantile to regressive at the same time that acetaminophen use in infants and children became more popular, in the early to mid-1980s.
(c) A wide range of inflammatory conditions that affect the potential to tolerate oxidative stress are associated with autism. It is expected that these conditions will adversely affect metabolism of acetaminophen. A notable exception is cystic fibrosis, a condition of oxidative stress not known to be associated with autism. Cystic fibrosis is also unusual as a condition of oxidative stress that actually enhances rather than impairs metabolism of acetaminophen.
(d) Genetic variants associated with autism, many associated with oxidative stress, likely influence the metabolism of acetaminophen.
(e) Circumcision has been identified as a significant risk factor for autism, and the only reasonable explanation put forth for this observation is that acetaminophen use during the procedure is probably inducing autism (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25573114; ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26268917, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3673819/)
(f) History demonstrates to us that it is a mistake to ignore the observations of parents when it pertains to autism. Many parents who have historically blamed vaccines for their child’s autism may have actually observed the effects of acetaminophen. In the 1990s, vaccination was advertised as the number one indication for use of acetaminophen.
(g) The idea that acetaminophen use, particularly in infants and small children, is responsible for many if not most cases of autism is an attractive hypothesis, as it satisfies Occam’s Razor in being a simple explanation that explains a wide range of observations.
Conclusions of the review:
1. There are several unknowns: We have almost no idea just how much benefit that acetaminophen actually provides. (That was never tested.) Perhaps it can be easily replaced by non-pharmaceutical means of reducing fevers, and perhaps not. Second, we don’t know exactly how much neurological damage acetaminophen causes when administered to infants and children.
2. Despite unknowns, given the preponderance of evidence described above, we conclude that parents and doctors should know all available facts so that they can make informed decisions about use of acetaminophen.
* References are cited in the review. Our review cites eight papers, but there are others, and more, on the way.
• Skovlund and colleagues found that acetaminophen use, but not opioid use, during pregnancy is associated with a reduction in communication skills. (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28168770)
• A study by Liew et al (Epidemiology 2016; 27: 912–918) showing lower IQ associated with acetaminophen use during pregnancy is cited in our review, but not counted as one of the eight studies listed as showing neurotoxic effects of acetaminophen during development.
• Vlenterie and colleagues found communication problems and delayed motor milestone attainment associated with acetaminophen use during pregnancy. (https:ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27585674)
** Additional circumstantial evidence exists, but was not cited in our review. For example, the unexplained and unusually high prevalence of autism in South Korea (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21558103) just happens to occur in a country where children’s acetaminophen capsules were inadvertently overloaded with active ingredient (saul.com/sites/default/files/3591_WCW062513tcgmp.pdf).
Links And Additional Information
My article on: Tylenol Side Effects
During our interview, Dr. Parker mentioned papers written by Dr. Stephen Shultz. Dr. Shultz also wrote a book that discusses his 17 years of research along with his experience with his son. (affiliate link)
*This post contains affiliate links*
Studies From PubMed (many more listed on Dr. Parker’s Published Paper)
- Dr. Parker’s Published Paper on Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, & Acetaminophen
- Prenatal and perinatal analgesic exposure and autism
- Language competence and communication skills in 3-year-old children after prenatal exposure to analgesic opioids.
- Ritual circumcision and risk of autism spectrum disorder in 0- to 9-year-old boys: national cohort study in Denmark.
- Prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in a total population sample: South Korea
- South Korea Takes Action Against Johnson & Johnson
- Neurodevelopmental problems at 18 months
Easier To Read Blogs, Articles, & Video
- Thinking Moms Revolution:Acetaminophen Use in Early Childhood: What’s the Evidence?
- Safeminds: Potential for Acetaminophen Exposure During Early Childhood to Induce Autism in Children
- Green Med Info: Tylenol Damages The Brains of Children
- American Academy of Pediatrics Fever Recommendations
- Dr. Parker’s Presents His Findings On YouTube
- Schultz, S.T., et al., Acetaminophen (paracetamol) use, measles-mumps-rubella vaccination, and autistic disorder. The results of a parent survey. Autism, 2008. 12(3): p. 293-307.
- Beasley, R., et al., Association between paracetamol use in infancy and childhood, and risk of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema in children aged 6-7 years: analysis from Phase Three of the ISAAC programme. Lancet, 2008. 372(9643): p. 1039-48.
- Becker, K.G. and S.T. Schultz, Similarities in features of autism and asthma and a possible link to acetaminophen use. Medical Hypotheses, 2010. 74(1): p. 7-11.
- Schultz, S.T., Can autism be triggered by acetaminophen activation of the endocannabinoid system? Acta Neurobiologiae Experimentalis (Warsaw), 2010. 70(2): p. 227-231.