Summary of the Seychelles child development study on the relationship of fetal methylmercury exposure to neurodevelopment

G. J. Myers, P. W. Davidson, C. Cox, C. F. Shamlaye, M. A. Tanner, D. O. Marsh, E. Cernichiari, L. W. Lapham, M. Berlin, T. W. Clarkson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Seychelles Child Development Study is examining the association between fetal methylmercury exposure from a maternal diet high in fish and subsequent child development. The study is double blind and uses maternal hair mercury as the index of fetal exposure. An initial cross-sectional pilot study of 804 infants aged 1 to 25 months suggested that mercury may affect development. A follow up of 217 pilot children at 66 months of age also suggested that neurodevelopmental effects might be present, but the result was dependent on outcomes in a small number of children. On the basis of initial results in the pilot study a prospective, longitudinal main study with more covariates and expanded endpoints was begun on a new cohort of 779 children. No association with neurodevelopment was seen at 6 1/2 , 19, or 29 months of age, but there was an inverse relationship at 29 months in boys only between mercury level and activity as judged by the examiner. Adverse neurodevelopmental effects from fetal mercury exposure in the pilot study are highly dependent on how the data are analyzed and no definite effects have been detected through 29 months of age in the main study. In a related study, 32 brains were obtained at autopsy from Seychellois infants. These were examined histologically and analyzed for mercury. No clear histological abnormalities were found. Mercury levels ranged from a background of about 50 ppb up to 300 ppb, and correlated well between brain regions. For 27 brains maternal hair from delivery was available and hair mercury correlated well with brain mercury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)711-715
Number of pages5
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • Seychelles
  • brain
  • fetus
  • fish
  • infant
  • mercury
  • methylmercury
  • neurodevelopment
  • newborn

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Toxicology


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