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Toxics. 2018 Aug 3;6(3). pii: E45. doi: 10.3390/toxics6030045.

Health Impacts and Biomarkers of Prenatal Exposure to Methylmercury: Lessons from Minamata, Japan.

Author information

1
National Institute for Minamata Disease, Minamata, Kumamoto 867-0008, Japan. sakamoto@nimd.go.jp.
2
Development and Environmental Medicine, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, Miyagi 980-8575, Japan. sakamoto@nimd.go.jp.
3
Development and Environmental Medicine, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, Miyagi 980-8575, Japan. nozomi@med.tohoku.ac.jp.
4
National Institute for Minamata Disease, Minamata, Kumamoto 867-0008, Japan. izumo@nimd.go.jp.
5
Faculty of Chemistry, Thai Nguyen University of Sciences, Thai Nguyen 250000, Vietnam. phuongqtdhkh@gmail.com.
6
Institute of Chemistry, Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, Hanoi 100000, Vietnam. ducloi@ich.vast.vn.
7
National Institute for Minamata Disease, Minamata, Kumamoto 867-0008, Japan. yamamoto@nimd.go.jp.
8
National Institute for Minamata Disease, Minamata, Kumamoto 867-0008, Japan. nakamura@nimd.go.jp.
9
Development and Environmental Medicine, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, Miyagi 980-8575, Japan. winestem@med.akita-u.ac.jp.
10
Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Akita University School of Medicine, Akita 010-8543, Japan. satoc@med.tohoku.ac.jp.

Abstract

The main chemical forms of mercury are elemental mercury, inorganic divalent mercury, and methylmercury, which are metabolized in different ways and have differing toxic effects in humans. Among the various chemical forms of mercury, methylmercury is known to be particularly neurotoxic, and was identified as the cause of Minamata disease. It bioaccumulates in fish and shellfish via aquatic food webs, and fish and sea mammals at high trophic levels exhibit high mercury concentrations. Most human methylmercury exposure occurs through seafood consumption. Methylmercury easily penetrates the blood-brain barrier and so can affect the nervous system. Fetuses are known to be at particularly high risk of methylmercury exposure. In this review, we summarize the health effects and exposure assessment of methylmercury as follows: (1) methylmercury toxicity, (2) history and background of Minamata disease, (3) methylmercury pollution in the Minamata area according to analyses of preserved umbilical cords, (4) changes in the sex ratio in Minamata area, (5) neuropathology in fetuses, (6) kinetics of methylmercury in fetuses, (7) exposure assessment in fetuses.

KEYWORDS:

exposure assessment; fetus; kinetics; methylmercury; toxicity

PMID:
30081479
DOI:
10.3390/toxics6030045
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