The Seychelles study of fetal methylmercury exposure and child development: Introduction

D. O. Marsh, T. W. Clarkson, G. J. Myers, P. W. Davidson, C. Cox, E. Cernichiari, M. A. Tanner, W. Lednar, C. Shamlaye, O. Choisy, C. Hoareau, M. Berlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Studies of outbreaks of methylmercury poisoning in Japan and Iraq from consumption of methylmercury (MeHg)-contaminated fish or bread proved that brain was the target organ, the toxic effects were dose-related, and the fetal brain was especially susceptible. Previous population studies suggested that a 5% risk of minimal fetal effect may be associated with a maternal hair mercury concentration during pregnancy of 10-20 ppm (μg/g), a level that can be readily achieved by frequent consumers of fish. However, these studies had limitations, and as a result no definite conclusion concerning the lowest effect level could be reached and the question of a possible hazard to public health remained unanswered. There was a clear need for a more definitive study that would be prospective, involve a large enough cohort for risk analysis and adhere to accepted epidemiological principles. An appropriate site for such a study is the Republic of Seychelles, a location that afforded successful collaboration between the Seychelles Ministry of Health and faculty of the University of Rochester. A pilot study of 804 infant-mother pairs was followed by a main study of 779 mother-infant pairs. In the pilot study children were examined once between 5 and 109 weeks of age; in the main study they are being evaluated longitudinally starting at 6 1/2 months of age. This paper introduces both the pilot and main studies, describes their design, and summarizes the findings through 6 1/2 months of age. When the Seychelles study is completed, the analyses will provide a database for those nations that choose to regulate their citizens' fish consumption and/or provide dietary education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)583-596
Number of pages14
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Toxicology


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