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Environ Res. 2010 Jan;110(1):40-6. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2009.10.011.

Long-term exposure to methylmercury and its effects on hypertension in Minamata.

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Department of Epidemiology, Okayama University Graduate School of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 2-5-1 Shikata-cho, Okayama 700-8558, Japan.


Recent studies suggest potential adverse effects of methylmercury exposure on cardiovascular disease, although the evidence of association with hypertension is still inconsistent. Therefore, we evaluated the effects of methylmercury exposure on hypertension in Minamata. We used data derived from the 1971 population-based survey in Minamata and neighboring communities. We also utilized data on hair mercury content of the participants (derived from a 1960 investigation). We adopted two exposure indices (residential area and hair mercury content) and two hypertension outcomes (past history of hypertension and hypertension defined by measurements in the examination). Then, we estimated the adjusted prevalence odds ratio (POR) and its confidence interval (CI) of both hypertension outcomes in relation to residential area and hair mercury content. In the Minamata area (high exposure area), 87% (833) of the eligible population (aged > or =10 years) participated in the 1971 investigations. In the Goshonoura area (middle exposure area) and the Ariake area (low exposure area), 93% (1450) and 77% (755), respectively, of the eligible population participated. Compared with subjects in the Ariake area, the subjects in the Minamata area manifested hypertension more frequently, and PORs observed for two hypertension outcomes were 1.6 (95% CI: 1.2-2.1) and 1.4 (95% CI: 1.1-1.9), respectively. Furthermore, dose-response trends with hair mercury content were observed for both hypertension outcomes. The present finding supports the causal relationship between methylmercury exposure and hypertension.

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