Are prenatal mercury levels associated with subsequent blood pressure in childhood and adolescence? The Avon prebirth cohort study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
261 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives: There have been conflicting data suggesting that prenatal mercury exposure is associated with adverse cardiovascular measures in children. We therefore analysed a large prospective population study to investigate whether prenatal mercury exposure might influence offspring blood pressure (BP) and heart rate adversely.

Design: Prospective birth cohort

Setting: The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).

Participants: Maternal whole blood collected in the first half of pregnancy was assayed for mercury and selenium. The offspring were followed throughout childhood and adolescence.

Outcome measures: Offspring resting BP and heart rates measured under standard conditions on six occasions between ages 7 and 17 years (numbers analysed: 1754 at 7 years to 1102 at 17).

Results: Statistical analyses took account of various factors present in pregnancy including family adversity, maternal age, parity, smoking, and alcohol intake. Unadjusted and adjusted regression analyses assessed the relationship between maternal prenatal mercury levels and offspring resting systolic and diastolic BP, and heart rates. A final set of analyses took account of selenium. Each analysis was carried out for all offspring, those whose mothers had, and those that had not, consumed fish during pregnancy. Further analysis for all offspring ascertained whether there were significant interaction effects between the sexes. There was little evidence to suggest that prenatal mercury exposure resulted in a clinically important increase in offspring BP in the whole group, since no effect size for an increase of 1SD of blood mercury level was >0.3mmHg. Only one association was significant at P<0.05 and therefore likely due to chance.

Conclusions: This study reveals no evidence to support the hypothesis that prenatal mercury exposure has adverse long-term effects on offspring BP or heart rates during childhood or adolescence.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere012425
Number of pages9
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number10
Early online date14 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • cardiovascular system
  • prenatal mercury
  • selenium
  • childhood blood pressure


Dive into the research topics of 'Are prenatal mercury levels associated with subsequent blood pressure in childhood and adolescence? The Avon prebirth cohort study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this