Brief Report: Low-level Mercury Exposure and Risk of Asthma in School-age Children

Epidemiology. 2017 Jan;28(1):116-118. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000000576.


Background: Although mercury exposure has been associated with several adverse health effects, the association with childhood asthma is under investigated. Therefore, we explore the association between mercury and childhood asthma in a population with low mercury levels.

Methods: Mercury levels were measured in blood and urine in 1,056 children ages 5-14 years. In addition to including questions about asthma diagnosis and wheezing, the study measured bronchial hyperresponsiveness and allergic sensitization to common aeroallergens. Logistic regression analysis adjusted for major potential confounders.

Results: Overall the adjusted odds ratios (aOR) between log blood mercury and the outcomes were 0.8 (95% CI: 0.63, 1.11) for asthma, 0.9 (95% CI: 0.79, 1.14) for wheeze, 1.1 (95% CI: 0.60, 2.03) for bronchial hyperresponsiveness, and 1.0 (95% CI: 0.80, 1.17) for allergic sensitization. Urine mercury adjusted for creatinine was also not associated with any of these allergy-related outcomes.

Conclusions: While the results did not support an association between mercury exposure and asthma, studies are needed to assess prenatal and lifetime exposure to mercury and asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Bronchial Hyperreactivity / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mercury / blood*
  • Mercury / urine
  • Odds Ratio
  • Respiratory Hypersensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors


  • Mercury