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Sci Total Environ. 2018 Feb 15;615:1192-1198. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.10.014. Epub 2017 Oct 17.

Prenatal mercury exposure, fish intake and neurocognitive development during first three years of life: Prospective cohort mothers and Children's environmental health (MOCEH) study.

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Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, National Center for Mental Health, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
Department of Preventive Medicine, School of Medicine, EwhaWomans University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
Department of Preventive Medicine, College of Medicine, Dankook University College of Medicine, Cheonan, Republic of Korea.
Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Ulsan University Hospital, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Ulsan, Republic of Korea.
Institute of Environmental Medicine, Medical Research Center, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
Department of Nutritional Science and Food Management, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
Department of Neuropsychiatry, School of Medicine, Seoul National University Hospital, Seoul, Republic of Korea. Electronic address:



In this prospective cohort study, the effects of prenatal Hg exposure on neurocognitive development during the first 3years of life were investigated.


The maternal blood levels of Hg were assessed during pregnancy and in cord blood. Maternal fish intake was assessed by interviewing the weekly frequency of fish intake during pregnancy. Maternal n-3 and n-6 fatty acid intake was estimated based on 24h recall food intake interview. The mental (MDI) and psychomotor (PDI) development index scores were assessed using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development at 6, 12, 24, 36months of age.


The geometric mean of the maternal blood Hg concentration was 3.3μg/L (10th percentile=1.81; 90th=5.91) during the early pregnancy, 3.0μg/L (10th=1.68; 90th=5.57) during late pregnancy, and 5.1μg/L (10th=2.94; 90th=8.93) in cord blood. After adjusting for weekly frequency of fish intake, the blood Hg concentrations during early pregnancy showed association with the adjusted MDI (β=-0.408, p=0.048) and PDI scores (β=-0.550, p=0.031) at 6months. After further adjusting for n-3 and n-6 fatty acids estimated based on 24h recall of food intake, the blood Hg concentrations during early pregnancy showed association with the MDI (β=-0.489, p=0.026) and PDI (β=-0.664, p=0.015) at 6months.


These results show that prenatal Hg exposure during early pregnancy adversely associated with early neurodevelopment during infancy, after adjusting for fish and n-3, n-6 fatty acid intake. Consuming fish high in fatty acids and low in Hg during early pregnancy may be important to neurocognitive development at early infancy.


Bayley; Fish; Hg; Neurodevelopment; PUFA; Prenatal

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