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Neurotoxicology. 1995 Winter;16(4):677-88.

Longitudinal neurodevelopmental study of Seychellois children following in utero exposure to methylmercury from maternal fish ingestion: outcomes at 19 and 29 months.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, New York 14642, USA.


Despite the importance of defining developmental consequences for humans of in utero exposure to low levels of methylmercury, it is not yet clear if there are postnatal effects in fish-eating populations. The Seychelles Child Development Study (SCDS), now underway in the Republic of Seychelles, is following children to test the hypothesis that prenatal exposure to low concentrations of MeHg through maternal ingestion of fish is related to child development outcomes. In this study, children were evaluated with the Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID) at 19 mos. of age (N = 738). The cohort was evaluated again at 29 mos. (N = 736) with the BSID and the Bayley Infant Behavior Record. Mercury exposure determined by cold vapor atomic absorption analysis of maternal hair segments corresponding to pregnancy revealed a median exposure of 5.9 ppm (Range 0.5 - 26.7 ppm). The association between maternal hair mercury concentrations and neurodevelopmental outcomes at 19 and 29 mo. of age was examined by multiple regression analysis with adjustment for confounding variables.


BSID Intertester reliability was ascertained by the Kappa statistic and was high. The mean BSID Mental Scale Indexes at both 19 and 29 mo. were comparable to the mean performance of US children. The mean BSID Psychomotor Scale Indexes at 19 and 29 mo. were 2 SD units above US norms, but consistent with previous findings of motoric precocity in children reared in African countries. No effect of mercury was detected on BSID scores at either age. On the Bayley Infant Behavior Record, activity level in boys, but not girls, decreased with increasing mercury exposure. Only one subjective endpoint was correlated with prenatal exposure to mercury. This study may have implications for environmental health policies concerning mercury in fish or fish consumption during pregnancy. Follow-up data are needed to determine if adverse effects occur at older ages and if such effects are determined to be related to mercury.

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