Neuromotor functions in Inuit preschool children exposed to Pb, PCBs, and Hg

Neurotoxicol Teratol. Mar-Apr 2005;27(2):245-57. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2005 Jan 11.


The aim of this study was to examine the effects of prenatal and postnatal chronic exposure to mercury (Hg), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and lead (Pb) on the neuromotor development of preschool children. The study population consisted of 110 preschool Inuit children from Nunavik (Canada). Blood Hg, PCBs and Pb concentrations were measured at birth (cord blood) and at the time of testing. Gross motor functions were evaluated and a neurological examination was performed. Fine neuromotor performance was assessed using quantitative measures of postural hand tremor, reaction time, sway oscillations, as well as alternating and pointing movements. Potential covariates were documented including demographic and familial characteristics, other prenatal neurotoxicants (alcohol, tobacco) and nutrients (selenium (Se), Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFA)). Hierarchical multivariate regression analyses were performed, controlling for significant covariates. Gross motor development was not linked to prenatal exposures. However, significant associations were observed between blood Pb concentration at testing time and changes in reaction time, sway oscillations, alternating arm movements and action tremor. For some of these outcomes, neuromotor effects of Pb exposure are observed at blood concentrations below 10 microg/dl. Negative effects of PCBs on neuromotor development were not clearly observed, neither were the potential beneficial effects of n-3 PUFA and selenium. Tremor amplitude was related to blood Hg concentrations at testing time, which corroborate an effect already reported among adults.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Developmental Disabilities / chemically induced
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inuits / ethnology
  • Lead / blood
  • Lead / toxicity*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Mercury / blood
  • Mercury / toxicity*
  • Movement / drug effects
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Selenium / administration & dosage
  • Synkinesis / etiology
  • Synkinesis / physiopathology
  • Tremor / chemically induced
  • Tremor / physiopathology


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Lead
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  • Mercury
  • Selenium