October 1987

Fetal Methylmercury PoisoningRelationship Between Concentration in Single Strands of Maternal Hair and Child Effects

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Neurology (Dr Marsh), the Environmental Health Sciences Center (Dr Clarkson), and the Division of Biostatistics (Dr Cox), University of Rochester (NY) School of Medicine; University of Alabama School of Medicine, Birmingham (Dr Myers); and the Medical College, University of Baghdad, Iraq (Drs Amin-Zaki and Al-Tikriti).

Arch Neurol. 1987;44(10):1017-1022. doi:10.1001/archneur.1987.00520220023010

• Pregnant women consumed bread that was prepared from methylmercurytreated wheat. Single strands of maternal head hair were analyzed by x-ray fluorescence spectrometry. The index of fetal exposure was the maximum hair mercury concentration during gestation. Effects were measured by the frequency of psychomotor retardation, seizures, and neurological signs in the children. A dose-response relationship was demonstrated for fetal effects of methylmercury. Analysis of single hair strands provides a better index of acute or subacute fetal exposure than analysis of bundles of hair; the duration and degree of exposure are more accurately defined. A sex difference in response is discussed.