Adverse effects of prenatal mercury exposure on neurodevelopment during the first 3 years of life modified by early growth velocity and prenatal maternal folate level

Byungmi Kim, Surabhi Shah, Hye Sook Park, Yun Chul Hong, Mina Ha, Yangho Kim, Boong Nnyun Kim, Yeni Kim, Eun Hee Ha

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4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background and aims: Previous studies have suggested that mercury exposure and folate levels during pregnancy may influence early childhood neurodevelopment. Rapid catch-up growth in children is associated with an increased risk of pathological nervous system development. We evaluated whether the association between prenatal folate and mercury-related neuropsychological dysfunction was modified by growth velocity during childhood. Methods: The Mothers and Children's Environmental Health (MOCEH) birth cohort study began in 2006 and by 2010, 1751 women had been enrolled before the second trimester of their pregnancy along with their partners. Participants visited the research center at birth and 6, 12, 24, and 36 months. We measured mercury levels in maternal and cord blood and folate in maternal serum. Questionnaires to evaluate the environment and health of their child were administered and anthropometric factors including body weight and height were measured. Certified investigators used the Bayley test to measure neurobehavioral outcomes. We calculated postnatal growth change as the change in infant weight for-age z-score between birth and 3 years. Multiple linear regression and mixed models were used to examine the association between mercury exposure and children's neurodevelopment as well as the modifying effects of folate and growth velocity. Results: A total of 30.6% of children experienced rapid growth during the first 3 years of life. Median values of mercury in the low folate group were significantly higher in rapid growers (3.41 μg/L in maternal blood and 5.63 μg/L in cord blood) than in average/slow growers (3.05 μg/L in maternal blood and 5.19 μg/L in cord blood). Rapid growers were also significantly associated with decreased psychomotor development scores during the first 3 years of life and with having mothers who had low prenatal folate levels, even after adjusting for potential confounders. Conclusion: Prenatal mercury exposure adversely affects infant neurodevelopment and is associated with rapid growth during the first 3 years of life. This effect was limited to children whose mothers had low prenatal folate levels, suggesting a protective effect of folate against developmental neurotoxicity due to mercury exposure and rapid catch-up growth.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109909
JournalEnvironmental Research
Volume191
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Keywords

  • Early-childhood neurodevelopmental outcome
  • Folate
  • Mercury
  • Rapid catch-up growth

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