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Study finds Caribbean-American women at higher risk for elevated mercury levels
Date:2/17/2012

health concern is possible damage to cognitive and central nervous system development related to maternal exposure.

Dr. Geer and her team used a combination of assessment methods to determine exposure levels. A questionnaire designed in collaboration with health professionals from the Caribbean community assessed the frequency of fish consumption, ritualistic practices, occupational exposures, number of dental amalgams, and use of mercury-containing skin and household products. [SUNY Downstate is located in an area of Brooklyn that includes one of the largest Caribbean-American communities in the United States.]

Analysis of cord blood for mercury revealed that 16 percent of samples exceeded the estimated equivalent of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Reference Dose. Cord blood samples generally reflect organic mercury that has been acquired through maternal food consumption. Predictors of cord blood levels included maternal fish consumption and foreign birth of the mother.

Urine mercury levels, which are more likely to reflect environmental exposure to inorganic mercury, were significantly lower than cord blood levels. Predictors of urine mercury also included foreign birth of the mother, as well as the number of dental amalgams and special product use. There were no reports of mercury use in ritualistic practices or in cosmetics; however, some women reported use of religious medals and charms. Women participating in the study were informed of any elevated test results.

Although the study population was selected as a convenience sample, the mercury levels were lower -- in this higher-risk population -- than those estimated based on maternal blood levels from the NYC Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (HANES) of 2004, indicating the possibility of lower exposure since the NYC HANES study was conducted.

Putting this into context, Dr. Geer explains that the elevated cord blood mercury samples seen in s
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Contact: Ron Najman
ron.najman@downstate.edu
718-270-2696
SUNY Downstate Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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