Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and the autism epidemic

I first met Peter a couple of years ago at an Autism Research Institute Think Tank. At the Think Tank Peter impressed everybody with his knowledge, specially about biochemical pathways. He was my lunch buddy for that couple of days and ever since we have kept in touch. I invited him to write a contribution to my blog and he obliged. You can read about his ideas regarding fever and the clinical manifestations of ASD in a previous blog: Peter now wanted to offer his thoughts regarding some interesting data that was recently published. As you will see, the same is a natural progression from his interest in the effects of fever in ASD individuals. However, before going to the blog a few sentences about Peter.


Many people with an illness or disorder read the medical literature looking for clues or treatments. I didn’t realize I was autistic till I began studying it. After 30 years reading (and writing) about multiple sclerosis – with no degrees or formal education in the medical sciences – I noticed similarities between MS and autism. As I began my study (got to save the Lost Boys!) I was fortunate to encounter three cordial advisers early on. Without their guidance I might easily have lost my way in a forest of evidence and citations: Martha Herbert (Massachusetts General Hospital) told me of fever’s phenomenal benefit; Eugene Kiyatkin (National Institutes of Health) clarified fever’s nature and uniqueness; and Jon Pangborn (Autism Research Institute) told me of high blood ammonia in these children.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and the autism epidemic

The incidence of autism has risen 10-fold since the early 1980s, with most of this rise not explainable by changing diagnostic criteria (Previc 2007). Biochemist William Shaw (PhD), founder and director of The Great Plains Laboratory, recently presented fresh evidence implicating acetaminophen (Tylenol) in the epidemic of autism in this country. Shaw (2013) reported that Cuba – with an autism incidence a fraction of ours (1/300th) – requires vaccinations (especially against measles), prohibits over-the-counter acetaminophen, and only rarely gives acetaminophen before vaccinations. Fevers persisting more than two days after vaccination are usually treated with prescription metamizole – a drug banned in the U.S. on questionable grounds.

The implications of this evidence are obvious – and staggering. All children in Cuba are vaccinated, especially against measles. Yet our autism rate is almost 300 times theirs – most of it regressive autism about 18 months of age. We give Tylenol freely; Cuba requires a prescription because Tylenol is limited by embargo. But perhaps Cuba uses a single measles vaccine; some think the triple measles-mumps-rubella vaccine (MMR) is the problem. A measles vaccine was introduced into Cuba in 1971 (Galindo et al. 1998) – the MMR introduced in 1986 (Reed & Galindo 2007). If the MMR hasn’t provoked an epidemic of autism in Cuba since 1986, why would it do so in the U.S.?

The most compelling evidence implicating an environmental cause of autism must be the number of normally developing children who gradually or abruptly regress into autism between 12 and 18 months of age. Parents implicated the diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus vaccine (DPT) in their child’s regression in reports to Bernard Rimland (2000) even before he founded the Autism Research Institute (ARI) in 1967. Rimland (1999) suspected the “autism explosion” in the early 1980s was largely due to accelerated efforts by the Centers for Disease Control beginning 1978 (CDC 2008) to promote wider use of the MMR. Yet the MMR, often implicated by parents in their child’s regression, never used the mercury-based preservative thimerosal the DPT and other vaccines used (though the MMR does contain 10% glutamic acid (glutamate) from gelatin to preserve the viruses (Hoernlein 2012).

Schultz and colleagues (2008) asked whether autistic regression after the MMR might be provoked, not by the vaccine itself, but by acetaminophen (Tylenol) given for its pain and fever. An online survey of parents revealed that children given acetaminophen for adverse reactions to the MMR were significantly more likely to become autistic than children given ibuprofen: “Children who used acetaminophen at age 12 to 18 months were more than eight times as likely to be in the AD [autistic disorder] group when all children were considered . . . and more than 20 times as likely to be in the AD group when limiting cases to children with regression . . . .”

In a second paper Schultz (2009) pointed out the synchronicity between the start of the autism epidemic and the CDC’s 1980 warning that aspirin was associated with Reye’s syndrome (Starko et al. 1980) – a rare but often fatal disease in children after a bout of flu or chicken pox. Schultz found the abrupt nationwide shift from aspirin to acetaminophen that began in 1980 was associated with an increased number of children with autistic disorders in California born after 1980.

This synchronicity Schultz detected is intriguing in light of Jon Pangborn’s assessment of the origins of the autism epidemic, based on thousands of cases reported to the ARI since the 1960s. Pangborn, chief ARI biochemist for many years, noted that until about 1980, 50–60% of autistic children were autistic from birth, and 40–50% regressed into autism at about 18 months. “Around 1980,” Pangborn (2002) concluded, “all this began to change. The total frequency of occurrence doubled, doubled again, and by 1995 was approximately 10 times that of 1980. Furthermore, while the onset-at-birth type had increased 3 to 4 times, the onset-at-18-months type had skyrocketed to considerably more than 10 times its 1980 level.” Pangborn concluded that most of the autistic population now appeared to have “an acquired disease caused by something that we were not doing 20 years ago.”

Equally intriguing is a paper by pediatrician James Orlowski and colleagues (2002): Is aspirin a cause of Reye’s syndrome? A case against. They made a variety of arguments: (1) salicylates like aspirin have alleviated fever and pain since the early 1900s, yet Reye’s syndrome was not reported until the early 1950s; (2) other studies worldwide showed no association between aspirin and Reye’s; (3) the incidence of Reye’s was already falling by 1979; (4) Reye’s virtually disappeared from countries that had not given children aspirin since the 1950s, as well as from countries that continued to give children aspirin; (5) U.S. Public Health Service studies between 1980 and 1987 corroborating a link between aspirin and Reye’s were seriously flawed.

My paper “Did acetaminophen provoke the autism epidemic?” in Alternative Medicine Review (2009) emphasized the chronology of the autism epidemic and the toxicity of acetaminophen, a known liver poison. Schultz et al. noted that young children detoxify acetaminophen via sulfation in the liver – a pathway known to be compromised in children with autistic disorders (ASD). I learned that during pregnancy the adrenal androgen and estrogen precursor dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) was sulfated to its storage form DHEA sulfate (Leowattana 2001) – most common precursor of placental estrogens (Barker et al. 1994). Did that explain the “extreme male brain” of autism (Baron-Cohen et al. 2005)? Furthermore, sulfation of DHEA required glutathione (GSH) as cofactor (Geier and Geier 2006) – often low in these children.
Shaw presented compelling new evidence confirming acetaminophen depletes glutathione – the body’s primary detoxifying agent and antioxidant, especially in the liver. In a comprehensive indictment of Tylenol and its maker Johnson & Johnson, Shaw implicated acetaminophen in many other disorders, including the epidemic of asthma: “Depletion of GSH as a consequence of acetaminophen toxicity to the liver has attracted the most attention in the medical scientific community, as it can frequently be fatal or require a liver transplant or emergency treatment to prevent liver failure (the liver is the organ with the greatest concentration of GSH). However, acetaminophen toxicity has been implicated in a wide range of other disorders in humans and/or experimental animals including cancer, birth defects, asthma, allergies, and brain toxicity.”

Shaw also noted recent evidence corroborating the association of prenatal and perinatal paracetamol (acetaminophen) with autism. Bauer and Kriebel (2013) pointed out that in the late 1990s the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended paracetamol before and after circumcision: “These guidelines include the suggestion of a first dose of paracetamol two hours prior to the procedure, and doses every 4–6 hours for 24 hours following the procedure. Thus newborn males often receive 5–7 doses of paracetamol during the developmentally vulnerable initial days of life.” Is this another reason boys are 4 times more vulnerable to autism than girls?
Further evidence Shaw reported reveals that in recent years Johnson and Johnson has repeatedly run afoul of the Food and Drug Administration – for mislabeling children’s products (increasing risk of overdose) and poor quality control and contamination at manufacturing plants; millions of bottles of children’s medicines containing acetaminophen have been recalled. Johnson and Johnson also makes Risperdal (risperidone), the antipsychotic drug for ASD with serious side effects.

Peter Good
Autism Studies
La Pine, OR


Barker EV, Hume R, Hallas A, Coughtrie WH. Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfotransferase in the developing human fetus: quantitative biochemical and immunological characterization of the hepatic, renal, and adrenal enzymes. Endocrinology 1994;134:982–989.

Baron-Cohen S, Knickmeyer RC, Belmonte MK. Sex differences in the brain: implications for explaining autism. Science 2005;310:819–823.

Bauer AZ, Kriebel D. Prenatal and perinatal analgesic exposure and autism: an ecological link. Environmental health 2013;12:41.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Pink Book: Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine Preventable Diseases, 10th ed. 2008 (http://www.cdc. gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/pink-chapters.htm) [accessed 9/26/2009]

Galindo MA, Santín M, Resik S, Ribas MA, Guzmán M, Mas Lago P, et al. [Eradication of measles in Cuba]. [article in Spanish; English abstract] Revista panamericana de salud pública 1998;4(3):171–177.

Geier DA, Geier MR. A clinical and laboratory evaluation of methionine cycle-transsulfuration and androgen pathway markers in children with autistic disorders. Hormone research 2006;66:182–188.

Good P. Did acetaminophen provoke the autism epidemic? Alternative medicine review 2009;14(4):364–372. (

Herbert M. The future of autism research. Keynote address at the Autism Society’s 40th National Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders, July 23, 2009. ( [accessed 7/3/11]

Hoernlein C. MSG and autism. [accessed 3/23/12]

Leowattana W. DHEA(S): the fountain of youth. Journal of the medical association of Thailand 2001;84:S605– S612.

Orlowski JP, Hanhan UA, Fiallos MR. Is aspirin a cause of Reye’s syndrome? A case against. Drug safety 2002;25:225–231.

Previc FH. Prenatal influences on brain dopamine and their relevance to the rising incidence of autism. Medical hypotheses 2007;68:46–60.

Reed G, Galindo MA. Cuba’s national immunization program. MEDICC review 2007;9(1):5–7.
( [accessed 10/2/14]

Rimland B. The autism explosion. Autism research review international 1999;13(2):3–5. (

Rimland B. The autism epidemic, vaccinations, and mercury. Journal of nutritional & environmental medicine 2000;10:261–266.

Schultz ST, Klonoff-Cohen HS, Wingard DL, Akshoomoff NA, Macera CA, Ji M. Acetaminophen (paracetamol) use, measles-mumps-rubella vaccination, and autistic disorder: the results of a parent survey. Autism 2008;12(3): 293–307.

Schultz ST. National Acetaminophen Sales and Autistic Disorder in California. community.dll?ep=16&groupid=389714&ck= [accessed 9/26/09]

Shaw W. Evidence that increased acetaminophen use in genetically vulnerable children appears to be a major cause of the epidemics of autism, attention deficit with hyperactivity, and asthma. Journal of restorative medicine 2013; 2:1–16. (

Starko KM, Ray CG, Dominguez LB, Stromberg WL, Woodall DF. Reye’s syndrome and salicylate use. Pediatrics 1980;66(6):859–864.

26 responses to “Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and the autism epidemic

  1. It deserve mention that there are now three prospective cohort studies that find an association between prenatal acetaminophen use and adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes. The first study, by Brandlistuen et al. 2013, looked at 3 year olds, presumably too young for an autism diagnosis, and found an approximately 70% increased risk of behavioral and psychomotor problems and a 50% increased risk of language problems. The other two studies, Liew et al 2014 and Thompson et al 2014, found increased risk of ADHD. Relevant given the high comorbidity between ASD and ADHD.


    • Thank you for the comments. I think the published studies you mention add credibility to Peter’s assertions. I am contacting him as he may want to address your comment personally.


    • I appreciate the information; I had not seen those studies. Interesting that they’re all from abroad; might be harder to fund such studies in the U.S. Arousing fear of tylenol may be the only way to stop the epidemic – just as fear (of aspirin) started it in the first place.


      • A little known fact: The Autism Research Institute has an heiress to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune sitting on its board of directors. This person has helped fuel rumors of vaccines causing autism by lending financial support to groups like SafeMinds and charlatans like Andrew Wakefield…which conveniently diverts attention away from J&J’s Tylenol.


      • Maybe to clarify, Ms Johnson no longer funds Mr. Wakefield and even changed the name of the Thoughtful House. Also the ARI, for which she funds many projects, do not support Mr Wakefield. He is no longer invited to their Think Tanks, etc. Thankfully I think that more and more people recognize him as a charlatan.


    • Dr. Wakefield may have lied or misled, but to call him an unmitigated charlatan is just wrong. Remember, Rosemary Waring was a colleague of his. His good works shouldn’t go down the drain for one mistake. Read Wakefield AJ, Puleston JM, Montgomery SM, Anthony A, O’Leary JJ, Murch SH. Review article: the concept of entero-colonic encephalopathy, autism and opioid receptor ligands. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2002;16:663–674. Their sense of implications was years ahead of its time.

      I suspect the ARI will regret having Ms. Johnson on their board before long. But as they say, money talks – especially in this ‘business’.


      • Jane Johnson, managing director of the Autism Research Institute, replied to my inquiry that she’s been warning parents about Tylenol for years; it was always part of the message at ARI conferences. She said it’s been years since Johnson & Johnson wanted the opinion of the Johnson family.


      • I haven’t seen any evidence that Jane’s been a strong advocate for more research into acetaminophen and autism, and I haven’t seen any “warnings” from her about acetaminophen, other than, as you mentioned, at ARI conferences and autism related forums on Yahoo!, and a very brief mention in the book she co-authored with Bryan Jepson several years ago, (a book that largely points at mercury as the main driver of the autism epidemic, and isn’t going to be read by anyone but parents of already affected kids) leaving the rest of us poor suckers (like my son, for example, who ended up in the state hospital after repeat dosing with Tylenol) to eventually figure it out for ourselves. Those who most need to be warned about the problems with Tylenol–women of childbearing age and parents of babies and young children are not hearing this message about acetaminophen, which, as you’ve just pointed out, Jane knows about, and has known about for years.

        As you’ve already noted, Peter, it’s “interesting” that most of these studies linking prenatal acetaminophen use to neurodevelopmental disorders are coming from abroad, and not the U.S. Perhaps those countries that don’t operate on a profit-based healthcare system, like we do, are more eager to fund work that might actually have the potential for stopping the autism epidemic–an epidemic which will eventually exhaust already limited resources, not just for the autistic adults left behind by their aging parents, but for the new autistics entering the system daily, who will need intensive early intervention and medical care for their comorbid conditions for the rest of their lives.


  2. Then about those, like Me, who were Born Pre-Tylenol era, in 1963?

    I do not suffer from autism, nor is it a disease, disorder, deficit, defect, condition, syndrome, or illness.

    I am naturally born autistic. I was non verbal until 2nd grade and started speaking AFTER coming down with the German Measles.

    Autistic is a Personality trait.

    These poor, suffering Children have “Autism Induced-Symptomolgy®” – Copyright © 2014 by PATRICIA ELAINE CHANDLER


    • Thank you for the comment. The universal consensus as of present is that there is no single cause of autism, but rather different ways by which agents may lead to autism. Some are the results of genes (like with tuberous sclerosis), others of infections (like congenital CMV), and even drugs (e.g., cocaine during gestation). These syndromic cases not only express autism-like symptomatology, they can rightfully be classified as autistics according to any behavioral screening tool.


      • My mothers ovum fertilized by my fathers sperm caused my beautiful, brilliant Autistic Personality Traits. My mothers empathy gene and my fathers genius gene were passed into me.

        “Autism-Induced® Symptomology”, which causes regressive behavior characteristics, which are infinite because every single Human being born on this Planet is unique, was caused by DRUGS, dating back to WW I.

        Even today, you Men taking, are infusing it into the DNA of every single Person you engage in sexual intercourse, thereby creating a myriad of New Symptoms which will manifest physically in another 25 years.

        I am just like Dr. Temple Grandin; just a little browner, cuter and bolder 🙂

        I am finishing my undergrad studies in Forensic Psychology so feel confidentand secure in the fact that all my theories of reality will be Proven. Please do not be intimidated by my Words; most are. That’s too bad.

        My 20 years in Clinical Trials R&D. started at Johnson and Johnson in 1985, taught me a thing or two.

        My professional career was within Clincial Data Management as a Computer Database SME.

        Brooklyn NY
        (347) 856-8478


      • My mothers ovum fertilized by my fathers sperm caused my beautiful, brilliant Autistic Personality Traits. My mothers empathy gene and my fathers genius gene were passed into me.

        “Autism-Induced Symptomology®©”, which causes regressive behavior characteristics, which are infinite because every single Human being born on this Planet is unique, was caused by DRUGS, dating back to WW I.

        Even today, you Men taking VIAGRA, are infusing it into the DNA of every single Person you engage in sexual intercourse, thereby creating a myriad of New Symptoms which will manifest physically in another 25 years.

        I am just like Dr. Temple Grandin; just a little browner, cuter and bolder 🙂

        I am finishing my undergrad studies in Forensic Psychology so feel confidentand secure in the fact that all my theories of reality will be Proven. Please do not be intimidated by my Words; most are. That’s too bad.

        My 20 years in Clinical Trials R&D. started at Johnson and Johnson in 1985, taught me a thing or two.

        My professional career was within Clincial Data Management as a Computer Database SME.

        Brooklyn NY
        (347) 856-8478


    • I appreciate your comment. You were born before the epidemic, true – but not before Tylenol Elixir for children was introduced to the U.S. public in 1955 (WIKI). It didn’t take long before it was a general painkiller. It’s interesting that German Measles allowed you to speak. I’ve never heard of fever (if that’s what it was) relieving autistic behavior permanently, but maybe it did in your case.

      I’m autistic too, though never diagnosed. I don’t think I have autism, like a virus I picked up somewhere. I think I’m autistic – a kind of personality trait. I don’t exactly “suffer” from it – I’m happy with my talents for research, writing, and editing. But I do know that ever since I read Pinocchio at age 7, I’ve wanted to be a real boy.


  3. Hey, here food for thought and a novel approach to AUTISM IN THE 21ST CENTURY: what say we all stop focusing on the Maybe this and Maybe that caused it syndrome, the supposed drawbacks, difficulties and struggles, which are actually more apparent in the Parental Guides of said Autistic Children and Adults, and instead, get ready, FOCUS SOLELY ON WHAT YOUR BEAUTIFUL, BRILLIANT Autistic Angels Can Do!

    Change Your Mindset, Change Your Mind and simply and plainly be brave in Supporting, Nuturing and LOVING Your Autistic Young and Adult Offspring.

    You will Never Change the path of evolution and there are millions morez just like Me, here now and We Are Not Going Anywhere.

    And, we’re definitely not all little white boys with blue eyes…. My eyes are Brown, indigo blue and silver; I got those beauties from my mom and grandmom and she’s Native Indian.



    • I first met Jan through emails when she was organizing an ARI Think Tank. Back then I though she was the secretary, arranging travel information and cutting checks fro ARI. At the ARI Think Tank I presented her with a bag of bourbon ground coffee typical of KY. It was a gift in appreciation of all of her hard work in organizing the meeting. She accepted it with a great big smile. During our breaks I had the opportunity to talk to her and learn about her autistic son, and general passion to help those affected by the condition. It was only after the meeting that I learned about her family. I can only say that I was and still am deeply impressed. She struck me as a humble and sincere person who only wants to help. I have only positive things to say about her.


  4. Pingback: Does glutathione depletion keep brain blood flow low and myelin immature in children with autistic disorders? | Cortical Chauvinism·

  5. Tylenol was also in the news recently when Prince died. It was reported he was addicted to Percocet, a combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone. Great idea – combining an addictive opioid with a liver poison.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Jeffrey Dach MD Curing Autism with Antibiotics - Jeffrey Dach MD·

  7. Pingback: Får det vara lite Alvedon? – Tupo Media·

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