Acetaminophen Linked to Autism and Other Neurological Disorders in Children

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Originally published on by Marco Cáceres

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


1 Bloomberg. Walmart, CVS face suits blaming common painkiller for AutismThe Peninsula Sept. 29, 2022.

2 Grzincic B. Acetaminophen, social media addiction cases go before consolidation panelReuters 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, AutismADHD 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 StudiesAmerican 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: studyNew York Post Sept. 28, 2022.

7 Pratt E. How Taking Tylenol During Pregnancy May Affect Child's Attention, SleepHealthline 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 studyPLOS One Sept. 28, 2022.

9 Cáceres M. Doctors Prescribe Acetaminophen for Fever AfterThe 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.

13 Bauer AZ, Swan SH, Kriebel D et al.  Paracetamol use during pregnancy -- a call for precautionary actionNature Reviews Endocrinology 2021 17: 757-766.

14 D'Ambrosio A. Warning on Tylenol in Pregnancy No Cause for AlarmMedPage Today Oct. 11, 2021.

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