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International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health

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Fish Intake During Pregnancy and Mercury Level in Cord and Maternal Blood at Delivery: An Environmental Study in Poland

Wiesław Jędrychowski1 / Frederica Perera1 / Virginia Rauh1 / Elżbieta Flak1 / Elżbieta Mróz1 / Agnieszka Pac1 / Zbigniew Skolicki1 / Irena Kaim1

Chair of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Collegium Medicum, Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland1

Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health, Mailman School of Public Health, New York, NY, USA2

Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, G. Narutowicz Municipal Hospital, Kraków, Poland3

Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, Collegium Medicum, Jagiellonain University, Kraków, Poland4

This content is open access.

Citation Information: International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health. Volume 20, Issue 1, Pages 31–37, ISSN (Online) 1896-494X, ISSN (Print) 1232-1087, DOI: 10.2478/v10001-007-0002-8, February 2007

Publication History

Published Online:
2007-02-22

Fish Intake During Pregnancy and Mercury Level in Cord and Maternal Blood at Delivery: An Environmental Study in Poland

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to estimate the amount of absorbed mercury (Hg) by mothers and their infants as a result of fish consumption during pregnancy. Materials and Methods: The cohort consisted of 313 mother-infant pairs recruited initially from ambulatory prenatal clinics in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. The customary pattern of fish consumption during pregnancy reported by mothers was correlated with Hg levels in cord and maternal blood at delivery. Blood Hg level was measured using atomic absorption spectrometry. Results: The mean Hg concentration in cord blood was markedly higher than in maternal blood at delivery (1.09 μg/L; 95%CI: 1.00-1.13 μg/L vs. 0.83 μg/L; 95%CI: 0.76-0.91 μg/L). There was significant correlation (rs = 0.62, 95%CI: 0.55-0.69) between Hg levels in cord and maternal blood. The overall ratio of Hg in cord blood vs. maternal blood was 1.7 (95%C: 1.50-1.89). Fish consumed during the last pregnancy trimester correlated stronger with umbilical cord Hg concentrations (rs = 0.32; 95%CI: 0.22-0.40) than with Hg in maternal blood (rs = 0.23; 95%CI: 0.14-0.33). Conclusions: The study shows that in Poland, babies are exposed to moderate levels of mercury prior to birth and that fish eating in pregnancy significantly contributes to prenatal Hg exposure. The findings also suggest that the level of cord blood Hg should not be used for describing inter-individual differences in maternal exposure to Hg compounds unless a proper correction factor is introduced.

Keywords: Fish intake during pregnancy; Prenatal mercury exposure; Cohort study

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