New Research: You Could Be BORN With Mercury Poisoning

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New Research: You Could Be BORN With Mercury Poisoning
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Could ordering sushi and getting dental filling be poisoning your unborn and breastfeeding baby? If your food and dental amalgam contain mercury, then according to recent scientific studies, there’s a probability you’re exposing your baby to mercury. More than 75,000 infants [1] are born with a risk of learning disabilities due to their mother’s exposure to mercury.

Mercury is a toxic heavy metal that is widely spread in our environment. For centuries, the hazardous metal was used for medicinal and commercial purposes. Chronic or acute exposure to the compound can adversely affect us and our environment. Of special concern is the development of vulnerable fetuses and breastfeeding infants.

Prenatal Mercury Exposure

According to a study [2] published in the Journal of Critical Reviews in Toxicology, exposure to organic and elemental mercury may occur through the transplacental route – i.e., it passes through the placenta and accumulates in the baby.

In particular, the researchers highlight the case of Minamata Bay in Japan, where the prenatal exposure of the fetus to mercury was recorded via maternal fish consumption. Pregnant mothers are advised to avoid some species such as bigeye tuna, tilefish, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel due to their high levels of mercury. Aside from seafood, other sources of prenatal mercury exposure include mercury thermometers and silver-colored dental fillings. Regarding the latter, a study [3] appearing in the Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine showed that pregnant patients with amalgam filling had significantly higher mercury levels, especially in the umbilical cord than control groups.

Studies [4] show that fetuses and infants are highly vulnerable to the toxic effects of mercury exposure. The heavy metal is believed to adversely affect the development of the neuronal cells and the central nervous system, potentially even leading to potentially permanent damage or even stillbirths.

Breastfeeding And Mercury Exposure

Breastfeeding is an essential process for complete infant development – and the primary source of nutrition during the early stages of life. Because of the vital developmental and neurobehavioral processes that are happening in the first months of life, infants are susceptible to mercury and other naturally-occurring toxicants.

Since breast milk can be contaminated with heavy metals such as mercury, breastfeeding might be an avenue for the infant’s exposure. In a study [5] published in the Journal of Science of the Total Environment, a large cohort of Korean scientists analyzed mercury levels in 207 breast milk samples collected within the first month of delivery. The finding showed that mercury was detected in all samples.

How To Minimize Exposure To Mercury

Understanding the avenue of mercury exposure and the potentially disabling repercussions of mercury poisoning among infants and fetuses is fundamental in establishing sustainable guidelines to safeguard future generations. The best cause of action for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers is to avoid eating certain species of large fish such as tuna and swordfish – and avoiding new mercury-laced dental amalgams. Note that removal of mercury amalgam fillings has been shown to lead to a higher level of mercury in the short term (for a few weeks), followed by a gradually declining level over the next 1-2 years. Thus pregnancy would likely not be the best time for filling removal.


[1] EPA. (2005). Regulatory impact analysis of the clean air mercury rule. Retrieved 5 November 2019, from

[2] Harada, M. (1995). Minamata disease: methylmercury poisoning in Japan caused by environmental pollution. Critical reviews in toxicology, 25(1), 1-24.

[3] Bedir Findik, R., Celik, H. T., Ersoy, A. O., Tasci, Y., Moraloglu, O., & Karakaya, J. (2016). Mercury concentration in maternal serum, cord blood, and placenta in patients with amalgam dental fillings: effects on fetal biometric measurements. The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, 29(22), 3665-3669.

[4] Rice, D., & Barone Jr, S. (2000). Critical periods of vulnerability for the developing nervous system: evidence from humans and animal models. Environmental health perspectives, 108(suppl 3), 511-533.

[5] Park, Y., Lee, A., Choi, K., Kim, H. J., Lee, J. J., Choi, G., … & Kim, S. K. (2018). Exposure to lead and mercury through breastfeeding during the first month of life: A CHECK cohort study. Science of the Total Environment, 612, 876-883.

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