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Prenatal low-level mercury exposure and infant neurodevelopment at 12 months in rural northern China

Hu, Yi, Chen, Limei, Wang, Caifeng, Zhou, Yijun, Zhang, Yan, Wang, Yiwen, Shi, Rong, Gao, Yu, Tian, Ying
Environmental science and pollution research international 2016 v.23 no.12 pp. 12050-12059
adverse effects, blood, blood sampling, confidence interval, fish consumption, maternal nutrition, mercury, methylmercury compounds, neurodevelopment, neurotoxins, nutrients, pregnancy, China
Although MeHg is a confirmed neurotoxin at sufficiently high dosages, the effect of prenatal low-level Hg exposure on infant neurodevelopment is still unknown. Four hundred ten mother–infant pairs were recruited in rural northern China from September 2010 to September 2012. We investigated maternal diet during pregnancy, collected maternal and umbilical blood samples, and tested infant neurodevelopment using Gesell developmental schedules (GDS) at the age of 1 year old. The geometric means (GM) of Hg exposure in maternal and umbilical blood were 0.72 and 1.2 μg/L, respectively. Positive associations between Hg levels and the frequency of total fish consumption were found (Spearman’s correlation, r = 0.09 for maternal Hg, r = 0.14 for umbilical Hg, p < 0.01). After adjusting for confounding factors, we found a log-unit increase in umbilical blood Hg levels was associated with a 4.22-point (95 % confidence interval (95 %CI) 0.77 to 7.67) increase in the adaptive domain and a 4.06-point (95 %CI 0.51 to 7.62) increase in the social domain. No significant association has been found between other domains and Hg levels in our study. In further analysis, we noticed the positive correlation between the developmental quotient (DQ) scores of the adaptive domain and frequencies of total fish consumption (p = 0.04). Our results failed to indicate the adverse effects between prenatal Hg exposure and infant neurodevelopment. However, given the low-level Hg exposure and its predominant source, the potential positive associations in our study may be attributed to the beneficial nutrients of fish consumption.