Maternal-fetal transfer of metallic mercury via the placenta and milk

Ann Clin Lab Sci. 1997 Mar-Apr;27(2):135-41.


To clarify the situation of trans-placental movement and milk screening of metallic mercury in human, the content of mercury was detected in the maternal blood, umbilical cord blood, milk, and placental tissues. In 18 parturient women, 9 had been occupationally exposed to metallic mercury whereas the other 9 had not. Mercury was detected by means of cold vapor atomic absorption spectrophotometry. Results showed that the concentrations of mercury of the umbilical cord blood and placental tissues were higher than that of maternal blood. The ratio of organic and total mercury of milk was markedly lower than that of maternal blood in the exposed group (P < 0.01). The ratio of inorganic to total mercury of milk was significantly higher than that of maternal blood (P < 0.01). Therefore, this study concluded that the metallic mercury can be transferred to the fetus via the placenta and secreted to a newborn via milk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange*
  • Mercury / analysis
  • Mercury / blood
  • Mercury / metabolism*
  • Milk, Human / chemistry
  • Milk, Human / metabolism*
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Placenta / chemistry
  • Placenta / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Spectrophotometry, Atomic / methods
  • Trace Elements / analysis


  • Trace Elements
  • Mercury