Total mercury exposure in early pregnancy has no adverse association with scholastic ability of the offspring particularly if the mother eats fish

Joseph R Hibbeln, Steve Gregory, Yaz Iles-Caven, Caroline Taylor, Alan Emond, Jean Golding*

*Corresponding author for this work

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

8 Citations (Scopus)
348 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

There is a public perception that relatively low doses of mercury found in seafood are harmful to the fetal brain but little consistent evidence to support this. In earlier publications we have shown no adverse associations between maternal total blood mercury levels and child behaviour, early development or cognitive function as measured by IQ. However, for IQ the lack of adverse association was conditional upon the mother being a fish eater. In this paper we analyse further data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), this time examining whether prenatal exposure to total mercury is associated with the child's scholastic abilities in reading, spelling, phoneme awareness, mathematics and science; the number of participants with prenatal mercury and relevant test results varied from 1500 to 2200. Multiple regression was used to assess relationships between prenatal total blood mercury concentrations and 16 different test results, after taking account of a variety of potential confounders; in parallel, logistic regression was used to determine associations with the risk of the child being in the lowest 15% of each score. Analyses were repeated stratifying for fish consumption and sex of the child. There was no evidence of harm associated with the level of total mercury, provided the mother ate fish during pregnancy. This was particularly true for tests of mathematics and science. We conclude that women should be confident that eating fish in pregnancy is beneficial for their unborn child.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberENVINT_2017_1791_R1
Pages (from-to)108-115
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironment International
Volume116
Early online date14 Apr 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018

Keywords

  • ALSPAC
  • Mathematics
  • Prenatal fish consumption
  • Prenatal mercury
  • Reading
  • Science

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