The relation between human exposure to mercury and thyroid hormone status

Biol Trace Elem Res. 2012 Sep;148(3):281-91. doi: 10.1007/s12011-012-9382-0. Epub 2012 Mar 18.


The aim of this study was to investigate total mercury (THg) and methylmercury (MeHg) exposure of 75 mother-child pairs in relation to their thyroid hormone status (thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), triiodothyronine (T3), free triiodothyronine (fT3), thyroxine (T4), and free thyroxine (fT4)). THg and MeHg in blood samples were measured by atomic absorption spectrometry and gas chromatography-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry, respectively. The median THg and MeHg levels in maternal blood, cord blood, and blood of 6-month-old children were 0.50, 0.53, and 0.32 and 0.22, 0.32, and 0.08 μg/L, respectively. There were significant correlations between paired maternal-cord blood levels for THg and MeHg, with a greater transplacental transport of MeHg compared with THg (mean cord/maternal blood ratio, 1.80 vs. 1.24). The maternal blood THg was found to be a better predictor of TSH levels in children than their current THg exposure. There was a positive correlation between maternal THg and children's TSH. T3 and fT3 levels in children were negatively related to cord blood THg in the majority (Caucasian) subgroup, whereas these associations were positive in the Roma subgroup. Mothers with dental amalgam fillings had significantly lower T4 and fT4 levels. Moreover, fT4 in the mothers of boys negatively correlated with maternal THg levels. MeHg exposure lowered T3 levels in the mothers of girls. Our results suggest that low-level exposure to Hg can affect thyroid hormone status during prenatal and early postnatal exposure depending on the form of Hg, gender, ethnicity, lifestyle, or socioeconomic status (dental amalgam fillings).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Mercury / blood*
  • Mercury / toxicity
  • Methylmercury Compounds / blood*
  • Methylmercury Compounds / toxicity
  • Thyroid Hormones / blood*
  • Thyrotropin / blood
  • Thyroxine / blood
  • Triiodothyronine / blood
  • Young Adult


  • Methylmercury Compounds
  • Thyroid Hormones
  • Triiodothyronine
  • Thyrotropin
  • dimethyl mercury
  • Mercury
  • Thyroxine