Mercury pollution is a worldwide problem. This European study offers a cost analysis of monies that can be saved by prevention of human fetal exposure to methylmercury. Through the prevention of mercury toxicity to a woman, nervous system damage to her fetus can be prevented. Methylmercury is the type of mercury that commonly causes neurotoxicity.
Information on mercury levels by hair analysis was reviewed in a number of research studies of pregnant women in several European countries. The degree of neurotoxicity was projected mathematically from previous knowledge of the results of mercury toxicity studies. The lowest acceptable level of neurotoxicity at this time is 0.58 ug/g, below which nervous system damage cannot be measured. It is known that mercury toxicity can reduce IQ.
In this study the IQ of each child was projected based on the information collected. Then, using existing economic studies, the authors were able to estimate a lifetime income for each person based on his/her projected IQ. Hair mercury levels were highest in southern Europe and lowest in Eastern Europe. In the EU, 1.8 million children are born yearly to mothers with methylmercury levels above the 0.58 ug/g. Prevention was estimated to be worth between 8,000 million and 9,000 million euros per year. In the U.S., the lowest acceptable mercury level is 1.0 ug/g.
CONCLUSION: Neurotoxicity from methylmercury comes mainly from seafood and fresh-water fish. There is a need for improved monitoring of methylmercury pollution, especially in Southern Europe. The cost benefits would be tremendous. One simple method for risk reduction would be education of pregnant mothers about the best types of fish to eat to reduce mercury exposure.
NOTE: The result that the highest levels of mercury were seen in Southern Europe could possibly be due to the large amount of seafood eaten there. Methylmercury is a fat soluble type of mercury that passes easily through the blood-brain barrier to enter the brain. The authors of this study suggest using younger fish, smaller species and fish from less polluted waters. The amount of production lost because of mercury neurotoxicity could pay for extensive biomonitoring, mercury prevention and toxicity treatment measures.
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Summary #926. nutrientmedicine.