Neurobehavioral performance of Inuit children with increased prenatal exposure to methylmercury

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Weihe, Pál ; Hansen, Jens C. ; Murata, Katsuyuki ; Debes, Frodi ; Jørgensen, Poul J. ; Steuerwald, Ulrike ; White, Roberta F. ; Grandjean, Philippe (2002)

Exposure to methylmercury from marine mammals and other seafood may affect the development of the central nervous system. In a traditional Inuit community in Qaanaaq, Greenland, mercury concentrations in cord blood and maternal hair have been examined in connection with all births. We examined 43 children at age 7-12 years with a battery of neurobehavioral tests. The average mercury concentration in hair was 5.0 microg/g and 1.5 microg/g in children and mothers, respectively. Clinical neurological examination did not reveal any obvious deficits. However, neuropsychological tests showed possible exposure-associated deficits, though only in a few cases reaching statistical significance. In conjunction with data from other studies, peak latencies on brainstem auditory evoked potentials tended to be prolonged at increased exposure levels. The data from the present study therefore appears in accordance with other evidence that prenatal or early postnatal exposures to methylmercury may cause subtle neurobehavioral deficits.(Int J Circumpolar Health 2002; 61(1):41-49)
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