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Epidemiol Prev. 2011 Jan-Feb;35(1):33-42.

[Fetal and perinatal exposure to mercury and selenium: baseline evaluation of a cohort of children in Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy].

[Article in Italian]

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Struttura operativa complessa di igiene ed epidemiologia clinica, Azienda ospedaliero-universitaria Santa Maria della Misericordia, Udine, Italy.



neurotoxicity of prenatal exposure to high concentrations of mercury (Hg) is well known; however, the doseresponse relationship at low exposure levels has not been quantified yet. This article illustrates the measurement of prenatal exposure to Hg and the pathway of exposure through the diet in Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy.


description of a prospective cohort at the baseline.


242 mother- infant pairs living in Friuli Venezia Giulia were enrolled between 1999 and 2001.


We measured the concentrations of Hg in the hair of mothers and children and of Hg and selenium (Se) in breast milk. The diet during pregnancy was estimated through a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) with a detailed section regarding fish. We calculated the correlations between Hg and Se in the biological samples and estimated the association between Hg concentrations and fish consumption.


in general, Hg levels in hair and milk were positively associated with the consumption of fish from the lagoon of Grado and Marano. However, they were low in comparison with those of other fish-eating populations and below theWHO alert limits, likely because of the small consumption of fish among pregnant women, estimated from the FFQ. The concentration of Se in milk was also smaller than that reported in other international studies.


in Friuli Venezia Giulia, fetal and perinatal Hg exposure is low. The children of the cohort will be followed- up at school age to measure possible neurodevelopmental effects of such low exposures to Hg.

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