Prenatal Methylmercury Poisoning. Clinical Observations Over Five Years

Am J Dis Child. 1979 Feb;133(2):172-7.


Thirty-two infants prenatally exposed to methylmercury and their mothers were examined over a five-year period after the Iraqi methylmercury epidemic. Severity of poisoning in mothers was related to the peak mercury concentration in their hair and in the infants to the maximum concentration in maternal hair during pregnancy. In nine cases of cerebral palsy, methylmercury exposure occurred only during the last trimester. All infants except three (two were orphaned soon after birth and one was bottle-fed) were exposed postnatally via suckling. Whereas the mother's symptoms usually improved, the damage to the fetal nervous system appears to be permanent. Milder cases previously not identified in other studies are reported. The syndrome consists of varying degrees of developmental retardation in addition to exaggerated tendon reflexes and the pathologic extensor plantar reflex (minimal brain damage syndrome).

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced*
  • Cerebral Palsy / chemically induced*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Developmental Disabilities / chemically induced*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Food Contamination
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Iraq
  • Male
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange*
  • Methylmercury Compounds / poisoning*
  • Microcephaly / chemically induced
  • Mortality
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications*


  • Methylmercury Compounds