Dramatic drop in mercury levels in pregnant women

A new study has discovered a dramatic drop in the levels of mercury found in pregnant women in Bermuda in the last decade.

A paper published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE compares two studies conducted in 2003 and 2011 which reveal a significant reduction in blood concentrations of methyl mercury in pregnant women on the Island.

According to a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health and Environment and Ministry of Public Works, the results of the first study, which revealed higher than expected levels of mercury in Bermuda fetal cord blood, led to advice being given to pregnant women on the consumption of local fish, where previously it was given only on imported fish.

She said the paper suggested Bermuda’s “coordinated approach in terms of advisories for pregnant women, relating to both imported and local fish consumption, has likely played a part in reducing the levels of mercury found in mothers’ blood”.

The 2003 study was conducted by Atlantis Mobile Laboratories, the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences and the Bermuda Government with the maternity ward at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

The 2011 study was part of the Caribbean Eco Health Programme study of maternal health and was carried out through the Department of Health at the public clinic.

Comparing the results showed a fivefold decrease in methyl mercury in Bermuda mothers between the 2003 and 2011 studies.

Exposure to higher levels of mercury during pregnancy has been linked to neuro-developmental issues in newborns.

The spokeswoman said the 2003 results — which were not unusual for a remote maritime community with a high fish consumption level — prompted the scientists associated with the study to put together a research programme to better understand the risk benefit balance for pregnant women from consuming local commercial fish species.

This resulted in obstetricians being able to give specific advice to pregnant women on which fish would provide them with the highest levels of beneficial nutrients and lowest levels of methyl mercury.

That advice can be found at www.conservation.bm/storage/projects-pages/Food additives and contaminants.pdf.

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Published Mar 14, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated Mar 13, 2014 at 11:55 pm)

Dramatic drop in mercury levels in pregnant women

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