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No link between mercury exposure and autism-like behaviours

Pre-natal mercury exposure from fish consumption eliminated as cause of later autism-like behaviours.

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The potential impact of exposure to low levels of mercury on the developing brain – specifically by women consuming fish during pregnancy – has long been the source of concern and some have argued that the chemical may be responsible for behavioral disorders such as autism. However, a new study that draws upon more than 30 years of research in the Republic of Seychelles reports that there is no association between pre-natal mercury exposure and autism-like behaviors.

"This study shows no evidence of a correlation between low level mercury exposure and autism spectrum-like behaviors among children whose mothers ate, on average, up to 12 meals of fish each week during pregnancy," said Edwin van Wijngaarden, Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center's (URMC) Department of Public Health Sciences and lead author of the study which appears online today in the journal Epidemiology. "These findings contribute to the growing body of literature that suggest that exposure to the chemical does not play an important role in the onset of these behaviors."

The debate over fish consumption has long created a dilemma for expecting mothers and physicians. Fish are high in beneficial nutrients such as, selenium, vitamin E, lean protein, and omega-3 fatty acids; the latter are essential to brain development. At the same time, exposure to high...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

University of Rochester Medical Center