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Environmental Health Perspectives
Environmental Health Perspectives
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workingforum Nothing is less in our power than the heart, and far from commanding we are forced to obey it. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) Environews Forum A 870 VOLUME 112 | NUMBER 15 | November 2004 • Environmental Health Perspectives Methylmercury and Children’s Heart Function Pregnant women who consume significant amounts of seafood may have a new reason to take precautions against methylmercury, the most hazardous form of mercury: a recent study suggests that when expectant women consume fish containing high lev- els of the toxicant, their children’s future cardiovascular health may be jeopardized. Fish and shellfish are the main sources of exposure to meth- ylmercury for most Americans. Methyl- mercury tends to ac- cumulate the most in large predatory species such as yellowfin tuna, shark, swordfish, and marlin. Other com- monly eaten species can accumulate in- termediate levels of methylmercury. Fish with the lowest mercu- ry content include cod, flounder, salmon, herring, and smaller tuna species that Americans buy canned. In 1986, researchers led by Harvard environmental epidemiologist Philippe Grandjean and Faroese Hospital System chief physician Pal Weihe began a long- term study of mothers in the Faroe Islands and their children. The Faroese are among the world’s leading seafood consumers per capita, with the average islander eating 2.4 ounces of fish per day. This diet exposes them to increased amounts of methylmercury. Over a 21-month period, the researchers gathered a cohort of 1,022 women giving birth in the Faroe Is- lands. They tested mer- cury concentrations in the children by analyz- ing cord blood sam- ples at birth and blood and hair samples taken at ages 7 and 14 years. They also measured the mercury in each woman’s hair by tak- ing a sample at the time of parturition. In one of the lat- est papers to come from this study, pub- lished in the February 2004 issue of the Journal of Pediatrics, Grandjean and his colleagues report that mercury whi

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