Prenatal Exposure To Mercury And Childhood Risk For ADHD

The role of prenatal influences on development can be profound. But it is still a very murky science, as was beautifully illustrated in Annie Murphy Paul’s “Origins: How The Nine Months Before Birth Shape The Rest Of Our Lives”. Case in point: a new study that looks at the role of prenatal exposure to mercury and risk for ADHD.

Forget about the study details – let’s cut to the two bottom lines of the study. First, documented mercury exposure during pregnancy (validated using gold standard methods) was indeed predictive of risk for ADHD in the offspring. Second, eating fish during pregnancy, which is sometimes thought to be a risk factor for mercury exposure, was protective with respect to ADHD.

So…what does a pregnant woman do with these findings?

Well, right now, not too much. This study did not identify the sources of mercury exposure, so it’s hard to say how to prevent it. And it’s not entirely clear which type of fish to eat, and what type to avoid.

Now, this is kind of where the science is at these days. It’s very important research, and not easy to conduct. But it’s worth keeping in mind, if you are following it, that it will be a long and winding road before the studies sort through all the complexities and possible contradictions and yield empirically validated guidelines.

Pregnant Woman via Shutterstock.com

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  1. by littleduckies

    On November 28, 2012 at 5:40 am

    Thank you for taking the time to read these researches and tell people what to make of it. Too many people read something and decide to take it as 100% fact, when it’s really entirely questionable if the study is even valid. Others live their lives according to studies that don’t actually prove anything – and drive themselves crazy doing it.

    So again, thank you.

    Oh, and I’m not sure anything can raise our risk of having a kid with ADHD; each of our kids has a 75% chance as it is.