OBJECTIVE: This study was designed to determine whether prenatal mercury exposure, including potential releases from the World Trade Center (WTC) disaster, adversely affects fetal growth and child development.
METHODS: We determined maternal and umbilical cord blood total mercury of nonsmoking women who delivered at term in lower Manhattan after 11 September 2001, and measured birth outcomes and child development.
RESULTS: Levels of total mercury in cord and maternal blood were not significantly higher for women who resided or worked within 1 or 2 miles of the WTC in the month after 11 September, compared with women who lived and worked farther away. Average cord mercury levels were more than twice maternal levels, and both were elevated in women who reported eating fish/seafood during pregnancy. Regression analyses showed no significant association between (ln) cord or maternal blood total mercury and birth outcomes. Log cord mercury was inversely associated with the Bayley Scales of Infant Development psychomotor score [Psychomotor Development Index (PDI)] at 36 months (b = -4.2, p = 0.007) and with Performance (b = -3.4, p = 0.023), Verbal (b = -2.9, p = 0.023), and Full IQ scores (b = -3.8, p = 0.002) on the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence, Revised (WPPSI-R), at 48 months, after controlling for fish/seafood consumption and other confounders. Fish/seafood consumption during pregnancy was significantly associated with a 5.6- to 9.9-point increase in 36-month PDI, and 48-month Verbal and Full IQ scores.
CONCLUSIONS: Blood mercury was not significantly raised in women living or working close to the WTC site in the weeks after 11 September 2001. Higher cord blood mercury was associated with reductions in developmental scores at 36 and 48 months, after adjusting for the positive effects of fish/seafood consumption during pregnancy