Title: Development neurotoxicity: implications of methylmercury research

Authors: Philippe Grandjean, Marian Perez

Addresses: Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA; Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, 5000 Odense, Denmark. ' Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA

Abstract: The causes of neurodevelopmental disorders are mostly unknown. Exposure to certain chemicals during early foetal development can cause permanent brain injury at doses much lower than those that affect the adult brain. Recent epidemiological evidence on methylmercury has shown adverse effects at exposure levels previously thought to be safe. Major obstacles in this research field include non-specific neurobehavioural outcomes and imprecise exposure assessments that result in a bias towards the null. Epidemiological studies may therefore easily underestimate the risk, but they are nonetheless often considered with scepticism. Neurodevelopmental toxicity potentials of numerous other chemicals have not yet been documented to the same extent as mercury, and exposures are therefore not regulated to protect the developing brain. The experience on mercury toxicity suggests that a precautionary approach to potential developmental neurotoxicants is warranted.

Keywords: methylmercury; chemical exposure; developmental toxicity; neurotoxicity; prenatal exposure; delayed effects; neurodevelopmental disorders; foetal development; mercury toxicity; postnatal exposure.

DOI: 10.1504/IJENVH.2008.020933

International Journal of Environment and Health, 2008 Vol.2 No.3/4, pp.417 - 428

Published online: 24 Oct 2008 *

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