Blood mercury concentrations in CHARGE study children with and without autism

Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Peter G. Green, Lora Delwiche, Robin L Hansen, Cheryl Walker, Isaac N Pessah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

78 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Some authors have reported higher blood mercury (Hg) levels in persons with autism, relative to unaffected controls. Objectives: We compared blood total Hg concentrations in children with autism or autism spectrum disorder (AU/ASD) and typically developing (TD) controls in population-based samples, and determined the role of fish consumption in differences observed. Methods: The Childhood Autism Risk from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) Study enrolled children 2-5 years of age. After diagnostic evaluation, we analyzed three groups: AU/ASD, non-AU/ASD with developmental delay (DD), and population-based TD controls. Mothers were interviewed about household, medical, and dietary exposures. Blood Hg was measured by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Multiple linear regression analysis was conducted (n = 452) to predict blood Hg from diagnostic status controlling for Hg sources. Results: Fish consumption strongly predicted total Hg concentration. AU/ASD children ate less fish. After adjustment for fish and other Hg sources, blood Hg levels in AU/ASD children were similar to those of TD children (p = 0.75); this was also true among non-fish eaters (p = 0.73). The direct effect of AU/ASD diagnosis on blood Hg not through the indirect pathway of altered fish consumption was a 12% reduction. DD children had lower blood Hg concentrations in all analyses. Dental amalgams in children with gum-chewing or teeth-grinding habits predicted higher levels. Conclusions: After accounting for dietary and other differences in Hg exposures, total Hg in blood was neither elevated nor reduced in CHARGE Study preschoolers with AU/ASD compared with unaffected controls, and resembled those of nationally representative samples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-166
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Volume118
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2010

Keywords

  • Autism
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Child development
  • Dental amalgams
  • Developmental delay
  • Fish
  • Mercury
  • Metabolism
  • Metals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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