While previous studies have found evidence for detrimental effects of metals on neurodevelopment, the long-term effects on mental health remain unclear. The objective was to explore the effect of early metal exposure on risk of psychotic disorder and on symptom severity following illness onset. Through the use of validated tooth-biomarkers, we estimated pre- and postnatal exposure levels of essential elements (copper, magnesium, manganese, and zinc) and elements associated with neurotoxicity (lead, arsenic, lithium, and tin). We found consistently higher levels of lithium in patients compared to controls. Higher levels of magnesium and lower levels of zinc were associated with more severe psychopathology over 20 years after metal exposure. The results show promise for the use of teeth biomarkers in examining early environmental risk for psychosis and underscore the relevance of studying metal exposure during critical neurodevelopmental periods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1153-1157
Number of pages5
JournalSchizophrenia Bulletin
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2017


  • environmental exposure
  • neurodevelopmental disorders
  • psychosis
  • tooth
  • trace elements


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