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New study associates mercury exposure to attention deficit disorder

The study showed that children exposed to higher levels of mercury or lead are three to five times more likely of having problems associated with ADHD. The Inuit population is exposed to mercury through high fish consumption and lead enters their diet primarily through the lead pellets used in hunting. One of the most intriguing findings was that mercury was linked to attention deficits while lead was associated with hyperactivity. The difference may be a question of timing: mercury exposures are in the womb whereas lead exposures are during childhood.

The authors say these results are consistent with recent evidence of adverse effects from postnatal lead exposure at levels well below the current “safe” level used by public health authorities. This strengthens HEAL’s call to raise awareness of the health and societal hazards of exposure to mercury and the importance of reducing exposure. This also reaffirms the need to focus on protecting vulnerable groups, e.g. children or pregnant women, and to share good practice and advocacy tools for increased action and policy change.

Scientific evidence demonstrates that mercury has many other adverse effects on health. Even low levels of mercury exposure can have adverse impacts on the development of babies’ brain and nervous systems. Methylmercury has also been linked with possible harmful effects on the cardiovascular, immune and reproductive systems in adults. The most common exposure to this type of mercury comes from eating seafood.

HEAL participates in the International POPs Elimination Network and the Zero Mercury Working Group, and uses our Stay Healthy Stop Mercury Campaign to work for a global phase out of mercury uses and trade.

More information on the study:

Originally posted on 9 October 2012

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The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »


HEAL has over 70 member organisations, representing health professionals, not-for-profit health insurers, doctors, nurses, cancer and asthma groups, citizens, women’s groups, youth groups, environmental NGOs, scientists and public health institutes. Members include international and Europe-wide organisations, as well as national and local groups. Read more »

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