Prenatal exposure to lead and cognitive deficit in 7- and 14-year-old children in the presence of concomitant exposure to similar molar concentration of methylmercury

Takashi Yorifuji, Frodi Debes, Pal Weihe, Philippe Grandjean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

35 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Few studies have examined the effects of mixed metal exposures in humans. We have evaluated the effect of prenatal lead exposure in a Faroese birth cohort in the presence of similar molar-level exposure to methylmercury. A cohort of 1022 singleton births was assembled in the Faroe Islands during 1986-1987 from whom lead was measured in cord-blood. A total of 896 cohort subjects participated in a clinical examination at age 7 and 808 subjects in a second examination at age 14. We evaluated the association between cord-blood lead concentrations and cognitive deficits (attention/working memory, language, visuospatial, and memory) using multiple regression models. Overall, the lead concentration showed no clear pattern of association. However, in subjects with a low methylmercury exposure, after inclusion of statistical interaction terms, lead-associated adverse effects on cognitive functions were observed. In particular, higher cord-blood lead was associated with a lower digit span forward score on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised (WISC-R) [beta. = -1.70, 95% confidence interval (CI): -3.12 to -0.28] at age 7 and a lower digit span backward score on the WISC-R (beta. = -2.73, 95%CI: -4.32 to -1.14) at age 14. Some interaction terms between lead and methylmercury suggested that the combined effect of the exposures was less than additive. The present study indicates that adverse effects of exposure may be overlooked if the effects of a co-pollutant are ignored. The present study supports the existence of adverse effects on cognitive functions at prenatal lead exposures corresponding to an average cord-blood concentration of 16 μg/L.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-211
Number of pages7
JournalNeurotoxicology and Teratology
Volume33
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011

Keywords

  • Food contamination
  • Lead
  • Metal mixtures
  • Methylmercury compounds
  • Neuropsychological tests
  • Prenatal exposure delayed effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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