Journal of Epidemiology
Online ISSN : 1349-9092
Print ISSN : 0917-5040
ISSN-L : 0917-5040
Study Profile
Neurodevelopmental Effects of Low-level Prenatal Mercury Exposure From Maternal Fish Consumption in a Mediterranean Cohort: Study Rationale and Design
Francesca ValentMilena HorvatAikaterini Sofianou-KatsoulisZdravko SpiricDarja MazejD’Anna LittleAlexia PrasouliMarika MariuzGiorgio TamburliniSheena NakouFabio Barbone
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2013 Volume 23 Issue 2 Pages 146-152


Background: Mercury is a neurotoxic environmental pollutant. However, the literature on the neurodevelopmental effect of low-level prenatal mercury exposure from maternal fish intake is inconsistent. We assessed the association between prenatal mercury exposure and infant neurodevelopment in coastal areas of 4 Mediterranean countries.
Methods: This was a prospective cohort study that planned to enroll approximately 1700 mother–infant pairs. Pregnant women and their newborn children were recruited in selected hospitals of the study areas. Biological samples, including maternal hair and cord blood, were collected from mothers and children, and the concentrations of mercury and other elements were measured. Exposures to lifestyle, environmental, and social factors were assessed through questionnaires. The main outcome was child neurodevelopment at 18 months, as measured by the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development, Third Edition.
Conclusions: This cohort has a number of strengths. First, mercury concentration was measured in several biological samples, which allows for a better understanding of mercury kinetics and is useful for sensitivity analyses. Therefore, we expect to be able to adjust for the potential confounding effects of lifestyle and social factors and for the effects of other elements that were measured in the biological samples. Finally, this is a multinational study and thus permits assessment of the relation between mercury and child neurodevelopment in different populations.

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© 2012 by the Japan Epidemiological Association
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