Mercury exposure affects your unborn children.

We all know that environmental toxins are unhealthy and have a negative effect on us. We also know that we need to keep our children safe from these exposures as well. That is why lead paint is no longer used in housing and why we no longer allow our children to play with mercury from thermometers. Additionally the FDA recommends eating a limited amount of seafood during pregnancy for precisely the same reasons. We take this information at face value believing that if we limit our consumption everything will be fine. We do this without stopping to consider the effects of mercury in our bodies for ourselves and our babies. Yes, the FDA does inform us that this is a concern, however, they do not explain to us the full extent of how dangerous mercury is for our children developmentally especially long term.
Starting in 1986, Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor in the Department of Environmental Health at HSPH, and his colleagues measured levels of mercury in the blood of more than 1,000 mothers and their newborns from the Faroe Islands, located in the North Atlantic between Iceland and Norway. The Faroese eat seafood an average of three times a week, including an occasional meal of mercury-rich whale meat. The mothers and babies averaged blood levels of mercury around 10 times higher than the U.S. average.
The researchers recently tested 859 of the children at age 14 for evidence of mercury toxicity. The scientists measured hearing-related electrical activity in the brain via electrodes attached to the children’s heads. They found that the speed at which a nerve signal goes from the ear to the brainstem after a noise stimulus is slower in children who had been exposed to higher levels of mercury in utero. There was a dose-dependent correlation between prenatal mercury exposure as measured in the mothers’ and children’s blood at birth and delays in nerve transmission 14 years later.
“Mercury, as we well know, is toxic to the developing brain. This study confirms that such effects are lasting, that they are permanent,” said Grandjean, author on two research reports that appear in the February Journal of Pediatrics. To put it another way, he said, “The brain cells don’t get a second chance.”
Though postnatal mercury exposure in the children, measured when they were 7 or 14 years old, did not correlate with the signal delays, the researchers did see an additional delay further along the signaling pathway in some children, which seemed to indicate additional neurotoxicity from continued mercury exposure during childhood.
Based on this information it is a good idea to totally avoid seafood during pregnancy and to consider undergoing a detoxification program before becoming pregnant. For more information on this topic look at some of our older blog posts discussing these very topics.


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