Study reveals no causal link between neurodevelopmental disorders and acetaminophen exposure before birth

April 12, 2024
NIH-funded research in siblings finds previously reported connection is likely due to other underlying factors.

Acetaminophen exposure during pregnancy is not linked to the risk of developing autism, ADHD, or intellectual disability, according to a new study of data from more than 2 million children in Sweden.

The collaborative research effort by Swedish and American investigators, which appears in JAMA, is one of the largest of its kind and was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Scientists compared siblings – who share genetics and other variables such as parental health, environmental exposures, and socioeconomic factors – and were able to limit the influence of other potential risk factors. This allowed them to focus specifically on, and eliminate, the risk associated with acetaminophen. The study design was unique due to the size of the population captured in the Swedish Medical Birth Register and the Swedish Prescribed Drug Register. Before siblings were considered, there appeared to be a small increase in risk for neurodevelopmental disorders in children exposed to acetaminophen, which was noted in previous studies.

NIH release