Subject: Toxins and Whale meat: Mercury damages babies of wome (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Mon, 17 Nov 1997 13:54:18 -0500 (EST)


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Date: Sat, 15 Nov 97 14:43:00 GMT 
Subject: Mercury damages babies of wome

Mercury damages babies of women who ate whale -study

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Women who ate seafood and in
particular whalemeat from the North Atlantic may have damaged
their babies with mercury poisoning, U.S. government health
officials said Monday.
     They said tests on more than 900 7-year-olds born to women
from the Faroe Islands showed a clear relationship between
neurological damage and exposure to mercury during pregnancy.
     The study confirms that mercury can build up in the fish and
animals that swim in polluted waters and can affect people who
eat these creatures.
     "Impacts on several measures of children's attention spans,
memory, language and other brain functions were associated with
the methylmercury exposure," the National Institutes of Health,
which supported the study, said in a statement.
     Dr. Pal Weihe, medical director of Faroes Hospitals, and
colleagues interviewed women who gave birth in 1986 and 1987 in
the Faroes, islands that lie north of Scotlandand which belong
to Denmark.
     People there often eat the meat from pilot whales and are
known to be exposed to mercury in this way.
     The officials took hair samples and blood from umbilical
cords of the babies to see if there were mercury levels in their
blood. They then followed up on the children.
     "The brain is extremely susceptible to toxic chemicals
during fetal development, but we waited until the children were
7 years old so that we could examine the effects in sufficient
detail," Philippe Grandjean of Odense University in Denmark
said in a statement.
     Each child underwent five hours of detailed examinations.
     "Most of the results remained within normal ranges, but any
developmental delay in young school children may be a concern,"
said Roberta White of Boston University, who worked on the
study. She said mercury exposure in the womb can affect several
areas of brain function.
     The researchers, who are also supported by the European
Commission, were reporting their findings in the journal
Neurotoxicology and Teratology.
     "Although most European and American diets do not include
whale meat, the study is relevant to general concerns about
mercury pollution," Grandjean said.
     "The study from the Faroe Islands suggests that increased
vigilance is needed regarding pollution with this
     The NIH team is conducting a similar study in the Seychelles