Babies exposed to high levels of lead in the womb are more than twice as likely to develop schizophrenia in adulthood, according to new research by US scientists.
Blood samples taken from pregnant American women in the 1960s, show that the children of those who had high levels of lead in their blood grew up with a much increased risk of the psychiatric disorder.
Dr Ezra Susser, of New York's Columbia University, said it was "the first time that any environmental toxin has been related to the later risk of schizophrenia".
Presenting the findings to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, he said: "It is a preliminary finding but an intriguing one. We think that people will now look at a variety of environmental toxins which can disrupt brain development."