The connection between prenatal acetaminophen and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

In the last decade, health studies have drawn a connection between using acetaminophen products like Tylenol® during pregnancy, and having a child diagnosed with developmental disorders like Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and ADHD.

Manufacturers and retailers failed to warn consumers, and parents and loved ones of those injured by prenatal use of acetaminophen are currently using legal means – including lawsuits – to obtain compensation for the injuries and lack of warnings.

“We have sufficient data from multiple populations and studies to say that acetaminophen is not as safe as it is considered.” 1

Pregnant women often go to great lengths to protect the health and well-being of their unborn children, abstaining from alcohol, exercise, and even caffeine.

While most women know that they should avoid substances like alcohol and cigarettes throughout pregnancy, over-the-counter painkillers have long been touted as a safe method to manage pregnancy-related pain. For many pregnant mothers, Tylenol® is a preferred, readily available medication that seems to provide a convenient, risk-free solution to common aches and pains.

However, a growing body of evidence suggests that Tylenol® may not be as safe as its manufacturer and retailers claim. In the past several years, federally-funded researchers have uncovered disturbing links between acetaminophen-based medications like Tylenol® and a wide range of serious neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and ADHD.

How Acetaminophen-based Painkillers Became an Underrated Developmental Danger

Acetaminophen, sometimes called paracetamol, is a chemical compound that can be used to manage fevers and relieve pain.

When acetaminophen was first synthesized in the late 19th century, scientists believed that it had limited use as a commercial painkiller: laboratory tests and trials showed that, while acetaminophen could effectively relieve pain-related symptoms, its routine side-effects included headache, nausea, and even liver disease.

Nevertheless, interest in paracetamol rebounded in the 1900s, and, by 1955, it was being sold over-the-counter in pharmacies across the United States.

Today, most Americans are more than aware that acetaminophen can sometimes cause discomfort. However, its low cost and relatively short-lived side effects have cemented paracetamol’s status as an easily accessible home remedy with a wide variety of every-day applications.

Up until very recently, acetaminophen was considered so safe that it is the main painkiller thT physicians recommended to pregnant women

Tylenol®, Autism, and Other Neurodevelopmental Disorders

Some scientists have suspected for over a decade that acetaminophens may not be as safe for pregnant women as pharmaceutical manufacturers claim.

In 2008, researchers uncovered a tenuous link between painkillers, routine vaccinations, and the later emergence of autism spectrum disorders.

While the findings of this seminal research were later misconstrued as evidence that vaccinations could cause autism spectrum disorders, further studies indicated that prenatal acetaminophen exposure could be a significant but often-overlooked risk factor for an assortment of serious neurodevelopmental conditions.

National Institutes of Health findings on acetaminophen and developmental disorders like autism spectrum disorder

Over 10 years after Stephen T. Schultz proposed that acetaminophen could play a role in the emergence of autism spectrum disorders, the National Institutes for Health reported its own findings: when federally-funded researchers analyzed data from the Boston Birth Cohort, comprising more than 24,000 mother-child participants, they found that children who had been exposed to paracetamol in the womb were much more likely to develop autism spectrum disorders and ADHD than children with little to no exposure.

Multiple studies draw connections between prenatal acetaminophen use and autism or ADHD.

Many researchers now believe that prenatal acetaminophen exposure could increase a child’s risk for:

  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Language delays
  • Conduct disorders
  • Cognitive impairment

“Epidemiological studies consistently suggest prenatal APAP [acetaminophen] exposure might increase the risk of adverse neurodevelopmental and behavioral outcomes, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder, language delay (in girls) and decreased intelligence quotient.“

–Nature Reviews Endocrinology (2021)2

Even when autism spectrum disorders and ADHD are diagnosed early, families often struggle to overcome the high costs of high-quality medical care.

The Mayo Clinic, for instance, recommends that children with ADHD receive treatments including:

  • Medications, such as Adderall XR® or Ritalin®
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Social skills training
  • Psychotherapy

Autism diagnoses often warrant more intensive interventions, which could include treatments such as the following:

  • Regular behavioral and cognitive screenings
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Medication-based treatments
  • Nutritional therapy
  • Social skills training
  • Special job training

Since conditions like autism and ADHD have no known complete medical cure, neurodevelopmental disorders exact an excruciating economic toll, totaling billions of dollars in medical expenses and lost opportunity annually.

On the individual level, the expected treatment costs of neurodevelopmental disorders range from $15,000 per year for ADHD up to $60,000 per year for autism spectrum disorders.

“Fetal exposure to acetaminophen was associated with significantly increased risk of childhood ADHD and ASD….

“Our findings support previous studies regarding the association between prenatal and perinatal acetaminophen exposure and childhood neurodevelopmental risk…” 3

How Parents and Families Can Overcome Restrictive Medical Costs

Pharmaceutical companies like Johnson & Johnson, the owner of Tylenol®, have a moral and legal obligation to warn the public when their products carry significant risks. When pharmaceutical companies, retailers, and resellers fail to warn pregnant women that their products could injure their unborn children, they could be held liable for negligence.

If you believe that your child’s attention deficit hyper activity disorder or autism spectrum disorder could be related to your prenatal use of Tylenol® or another over-the-counter acetaminophen, your family could be entitled to significant compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.

Every state has its own laws defining and limiting the damages available to personal injury plaintiffs. In Texas, legal damages typically fall into the following two categories:

  • Economic damages. Economic damages are expenses and losses that have an easily quantifiable dollar amount. Examples of economic damages include medical expenses, anticipated care needs, and lost income.
  • Non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are intangible losses that are more difficult to quantify. Examples of non-economic damages include emotional pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment, and loss of companionship.

Under certain, limited circumstances, courts may also award punitive damages, which are intended to punish a reckless or otherwise exceptionally negligent wrongdoer for their misconduct.

Calculating damages, especially non-economic damages, can be difficult. While Texas allows personal injury plaintiffs to calculate their non-economic damages using a multiplier, actual awards may be influenced both by legal precedent and the availability of compelling evidence.

You Shouldn’t Have to Fight for Justice Alone

The early detection of neurodevelopmental disorders can make a life-changing difference for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and ADHD.

However, even simple cognitive screenings can cost thousands of dollars: a significant amount of money that prevents many families from asking a physician about the warning signs of an emerging disability.

Obtaining compensation, preventing others from being injured in the future.

While a personal injury lawsuit could help your family secure the compensation needed to fight for your child’s future, pharmaceutical companies and retailers have long been reluctant to admit when their products inflict injury.

Since companies like Johnson & Johnson enjoy multi-billion-dollar profit margins, they have more than sufficient resources to push back against individual claims.

Fortunately, now that science has shown that acetaminophen could cause serious neurodevelopmental disorders, thousands of Americans have pooled their resources to hold negligent companies accountable for their wrongdoing.

If you believe that your child’s neurodevelopmental disorder may have been influenced by prenatal Tylenol® exposure, the mass tort attorneys at Justinian & Associates could help your family explore your options for justice.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that if your child has symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder, you should contact a healthcare professional to have your child screened for ASD.

  • Info about screening for ASD is available on the CDC Website.
  • There is no cure for ASD, but there are autism therapies that can greatly help a child’s development.

Taking Tylenol® (Acetaminophen / Paracetamol) while pregnant can affect the child’s brain development. 4 5

“We have sufficient data from multiple populations and studies to say that acetaminophen is not as safe as it is considered.” 6

Prenatal acetaminophen consumption has been connected to:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Language delay (in girls)
  • Decreased Intelligence Quotient (IQ).7

We Are Warriors For The Injured

Our only goal is justice for our clients, whatever that means for them.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) attributable to acetaminophen taken during pregnancy, now is the time to seek legal assistance.

You need experienced attorneys on your side.

Our Austin and San Antonio mass tort lawyers have successfully represented dozens of victims injured by dangerous pharmaceuticals and other hazardous substances. That’s exactly why we were founded.

The legal team at Justinian and Associates has years of experience dealing with personal injury cases involving health conditions like ASD, and medications that are far more dangerous than represented by the companies selling them.

We have the knowledge, experience, resources and trained investigators to take on large adversaries like billion dollar manufacturing companies.

All we do is fight for injured victims.  And we do not accept defeat.

Unless we get you money for your injuries, you don’t pay us a dime.

Call, text or email us for a free consultation, with no obligation.

(855) 452-5529

[email protected]

Speak to an Austin personal injury attorney from Justinian & Associates (not a “screener” or paralegal) to understand your rights.


[1] A Systematic Review of the Link Between Autism Spectrum Disorder and Acetaminophen: A Mystery to Resolve, interpreting data from Parker SE, Collett BR, Werler MM: Maternal acetaminophen use during pregnancy and childhood behavioural problems: Discrepancies between mother- and teacher-reported outcomes. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2020, 34:299-308. 10.1111/ppe.12601).

[2] Paracetamol use during pregnancy—a call for precautionary action, Bauer, A.Z., Swan, S.H., Kriebel, D., Liew, Z., Taylor, H.S., Bornehag, C.G., Andrade, A.M., Olsen, J., Jensen, R.H., Mitchell, R.T. and Skakkebaek, N.E., 2021. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 17(12), pp.757-766.

[3] “Association of cord plasma biomarkers of in utero acetaminophen exposure with risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder in childhood.” Ji, Yuelong, et al., JAMA psychiatry 77.2 (2020): 180-189.

[4] A Systematic Review of the Link Between Autism Spectrum Disorder and Acetaminophen: A Mystery to Resolve, interpreting data from Parker SE, Collett BR, Werler MM: Maternal acetaminophen use during pregnancy and childhood behavioural problems: Discrepancies between mother- and teacher-reported outcomes. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2020, 34:299-308. 10.1111/ppe.12601).

[5] Paracetamol use during pregnancy—a call for precautionary action, Bauer, A.Z., Swan, S.H., Kriebel, D., Liew, Z., Taylor, H.S., Bornehag, C.G., Andrade, A.M., Olsen, J., Jensen, R.H., Mitchell, R.T. and Skakkebaek, N.E., 2021. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 17(12), pp.757-766.

[6] A Systematic Review of the Link Between Autism Spectrum Disorder and Acetaminophen: A Mystery to Resolve, interpreting data from Parker SE, Collett BR, Werler MM: Maternal acetaminophen use during pregnancy and childhood behavioural problems: Discrepancies between mother- and teacher-reported outcomes. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2020, 34:299-308. 10.1111/ppe.12601).

[7] Paracetamol use during pregnancy—a call for precautionary action, Bauer, A.Z., Swan, S.H., Kriebel, D., Liew, Z., Taylor, H.S., Bornehag, C.G., Andrade, A.M., Olsen, J., Jensen, R.H., Mitchell, R.T. and Skakkebaek, N.E., 2021. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 17(12), pp.757-766.