Neuropsychological function in school-age children with low mercury exposures

Pamela J. Surkan, David Wypij, Felicia Trachtenberg, David B. Daniel, Lars Barregard, Sonja McKinlay, David C. Bellinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The EPA reference dose for methylmercury (MeHg) was established using data from populations with greater exposures than those typical of the US. Few data are available on potential adverse health effects at lower levels. We examined relationships between hair mercury (Hg) levels and neuropsychological outcomes in a population of US children. This study included data from 355 children ages 6-10 enrolled in the New England Children's Amalgam Trial. Data on total hair Hg levels, sociodemographic information and neuropsychological function were collected. We evaluated associations between hair Hg and neuropsychological test scores with linear regression methods and used generalized additive models to determine the shape of associations that departed from linearity. Models controlled for relevant covariates, including the potential beneficial effects of consuming fish. In adjusted models, we observed no significant linear relationships between hair Hg level and any test score. Significant departures from linearity were identified for WIAT Math Reasoning and WRAMVA Visual-Motor Composite scores. The association was positive for hair Hg levels below 0.5 μg/g and negative for levels between 0.5 and 1.0 μg/g. Overall, test scores of children with hair Hg levels ≥1.0 μg/g appeared to be lower than those of children with levels <1.0 μg/g, but few children had levels in this upper range and these differences did not reach statistical significance. Hair Hg levels below 1.0 μg/g in US school-age children were not adversely related to neuropsychological function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)728-733
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2009


  • Children
  • Mercury
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Semi-parametric models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)

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  • Cite this

    Surkan, P. J., Wypij, D., Trachtenberg, F., Daniel, D. B., Barregard, L., McKinlay, S., & Bellinger, D. C. (2009). Neuropsychological function in school-age children with low mercury exposures. Environmental research, 109(6), 728-733.