Oct. 23, 2008 -- Question: Does lead paint in old houses cause children to develop autism?
Answer: There is suspicion that lead may be a contributor to autism. There is some literature on this. Lead paint is certainly a source of lead which is very well known to cause brain and developmental problems. It can lead to reduced IQ, attention problems, and increased aggressive behavior, poor performance in school and poor employment records as well as criminal records in the future. Autism is a possibility here particularly if lead is combined with other risk factors, whether genetic or environmental.
It's very, very important to be careful about household lead. Sometimes young couples will get married. The wife will become pregnant and they'll buy a new house and they'll de-lead the house all during pregnancy. This is not a good idea. If you're going to do major renovations you shouldn't do them while you're pregnant because this would increase the chance for exposures from the construction process and the chemicals that may be released into the air where you live during that time.