February 1979

Prenatal Methylmercury PoisoningClinical Observations Over Five Years

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pediatrics, the Medical College, University of Baghdad, Iraq (Drs Amin-Zaki and Majeed); the Department of Pediatrics, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, and Spartanburg (SC) General Hospital (Dr Elhassani); and the Environmental Health Sciences Center, University of Rochester School of Medicine, New York (Drs Clarkson and Doherty and Mr Greenwood).

Am J Dis Child. 1979;133(2):172-177. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1979.02130020064013

• Thirty-two infants prenatally exposed to methylmercury and their mothers were examined over a five-year period after the Iraqi methylmercury epidemic. Severity of poisoning in mothers was related to the peak mercury concentration in their hair and in the infants to the maximum concentration in maternal hair during pregnancy. In nine cases of cerebral palsy, methylmercury exposure occurred only during the last trimester. All infants except three (two were orphaned soon after birth and one was bottle-fed) were exposed postnatally via suckling. Whereas the mother's symptoms usually improved, the damage to the fetal nervous system appears to be permanent. Milder cases previously not identified in other studies are reported. The syndrome consists of varying degrees of developmental retardation in addition to exaggerated tendon reflexes and the pathologic extensor plantar reflex (minimal brain damage syndrome).

(Am J Dis Child 133:172-177, 1979)