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Publication - Dr Caroline Taylor

    Total mercury exposure in early pregnancy has no adverse association with scholastic ability of the offspring particularly if the mother eats fish

    Citation

    Hibbeln, JR, Gregory, S, Iles-Caven, Y, Taylor, C, Emond, A & Golding, J, 2018, ‘Total mercury exposure in early pregnancy has no adverse association with scholastic ability of the offspring particularly if the mother eats fish’. Environment International, vol 116., pp. 108-115

    Abstract

    There is a public perception that relatively low doses of mercury found in seafood are harmful to the fetal brain but little consistent evidence to support this. In earlier publications we have shown no adverse associations between maternal total blood mercury levels and child behaviour, early development or cognitive function as measured by IQ. However, for IQ the lack of adverse association was conditional upon the mother being a fish eater. In this paper we analyse further data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), this time examining whether prenatal exposure to total mercury is associated with the child's scholastic abilities in reading, spelling, phoneme awareness, mathematics and science; the number of participants with prenatal mercury and relevant test results varied from 1500 to 2200. Multiple regression was used to assess relationships between prenatal total blood mercury concentrations and 16 different test results, after taking account of a variety of potential confounders; in parallel, logistic regression was used to determine associations with the risk of the child being in the lowest 15% of each score. Analyses were repeated stratifying for fish consumption and sex of the child. There was no evidence of harm associated with the level of total mercury, provided the mother ate fish during pregnancy. This was particularly true for tests of mathematics and science. We conclude that women should be confident that eating fish in pregnancy is beneficial for their unborn child.

    Full details in the University publications repository