A cohort of 1022 consecutive singleton births during 1986-87 in the Faroe Islands, born to mothers who had consumed methylmercury-polluted pilot whale meat and having increased mercury concentrations in cord blood and maternal hair, received neurobehavioral evaluations at 7 years of age at Odense University, Denmark. Deficits in language, attention, and memory, and to a lesser extent in visuospatial and motor functions were revealed, even in children born to mothers with hair mercury concentrations below 10 mcg/g (50 nmol/g). A doubling in mercury exposure was associated with a developmental delay of 2 months. [1]

COMMENT. Neurobehavioral dysfunction in children born in the Faroe Islands can be related to prenatal methylmercury exposure, and has been detected at exposure levels currently considered safe.

The neurological long-term effects of methylmercury poisoning were described in three children and a neonate in a New Mexico family who had consumed pork containing methylmercury. (Davis LE et al. 1994. Reviewed in Progress in Pediatric Neurology III, 1997;p279). At 22 year follow-up, 2 had died, and 2 had cortical blindness, ataxia, and attentional deficits.