The neurological effects of prenatal and postnatal mercury/methylmercury exposure on three-year-old children in Taiwan

Chemosphere. 2014 Apr:100:71-6. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2013.12.068. Epub 2014 Jan 23.


This study attempts to elucidate the relationship between neurological effects and mercury/methylmercury concentrations in various biomarkers, including meconium, hair, fingernail, and toenail. Eight-three mother-infant pairs were recruited between August 2008 and December 2009, and follow-up examinations on these children were completed after three years. The Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development (Bayley-III) for evaluating the cognitive, language, and motor development of three-year-old children were calculated and validated. The geometric mean of the total mercury concentration in meconium was 89.6 ng g(-1). The methylmercury concentrations in hair, fingernail, and toenail samples were 1.96, 0.64, and 0.55 μg g(-1), respectively. Seventy percent of children had hair methylmercury concentrations exceeding the U.S. environmental protection agency (EPA) reference of 1 μg g(-1). A significantly positive correlation was obtained between methylmercury levels in hair, fingernail, and toenail. These methylmercury levels were also significantly positively correlated with the children's fish intake and negatively correlated with a Bayley-III scale score of expressive language. The prenatal mercury exposure, however, did not show significant influence on neurological development. High fish consumption appears to be a critical risk factor for methylmercury levels in children and may cause a lower expressive language score.

Keywords: Children; Fish intake; Mercury; Methylmercury; Neurological effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Fishes
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mercury / metabolism
  • Mercury / toxicity*
  • Methylmercury Compounds / metabolism
  • Methylmercury Compounds / toxicity*
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / metabolism
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / physiopathology*
  • Taiwan
  • United States


  • Methylmercury Compounds
  • Mercury