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Arch Environ Health. 1992 May-Jun;47(3):185-95.

Impact of maternal seafood diet on fetal exposure to mercury, selenium, and lead.

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  • 1Institute of Community Health, Odense University, Denmark.


Umbilical cord blood from 1,023 consecutive births in the Faroe Islands showed a median blood-mercury concentration of 121 nmol/l (24.2 micrograms/l); 250 of those samples (25.1%) had blood-mercury concentrations that exceeded 200 nmol/l (40 micrograms/l). Maternal hair mercury concentrations showed a median of 22.5 nmol/g (4.5 micrograms/g), and 130 samples (12.7%) contained concentrations that exceeded 50 nmol/g (10 micrograms/g). Frequent ingestion of whale meat dinners during pregnancy and, to a much lesser degree, frequent consumption of fish, and increased parity or age were associated with high mercury concentrations in cord blood and hair. Blood-mercury levels were slightly lower if the mother had occasionally ingested alcoholic beverages. Mercury in blood correlated moderately with blood selenium (median, 1.40 mumol/l). Increased selenium concentrations were associated with intake of whale meat, alcohol abstention, delivery after term, and high parity. Lead in cord blood was low (median, 82 nmol/l), particularly if the mothers had frequently had fish for dinner and had abstained from smoking.

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