Mercury in human maternal and cord blood, placenta, and milk

Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1976 Mar;151(3):565-7. doi: 10.3181/00379727-151-39259.


Total mercury concentration was measured by atomic absorption spectrophotometry in 100 maternal-umbilical cord blood pairs, 39 placentae, and 32 breast milk samples, all from patients at the University of Iowa Hospitals. The mean maternal and cord blood levels were 1.01 and 1.24 parts per billion (ppb), respectively. Though the difference between maternal and cord values was not statistically significant, the two were significantly correlated with each other, and maternal blood level increased significantly with maternal age. Mean placental and milk concentrations were 2.28 and 0.93 ppb, respectively. The mercury levels in this study were lower than those reported from elsewhere, probably reflecting a combination of methodological refinement and relatively low mercury exposure in a rural population whose diet is low in fish consumption. These low levels suggest that the risk of perinatal mercury damage is small in such a population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Birth Weight
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / analysis*
  • Mercury / analysis*
  • Milk, Human / analysis*
  • Parity
  • Placenta / analysis*
  • Pregnancy


  • Mercury