Prenatal and Early Postnatal Exposure to Total Mercury and Methylmercury from Low Maternal Fish Consumption

  • Monika Ursinyova
  • Vlasta Masanova
  • Iveta Uhnakova
  • Lubica Palkovicova Murinova
  • Henrieta Patayova
  • Katarina Rausova
  • Tomas Trnovec
  • Jan Stencl
  • Martin Gajdos


The aim of this study was to investigate the influence of low fish consumption on prenatal and early postnatal exposure to mercury species. The samples of umbilical cord blood and maternal milk as well as interviewer-administered questionnaires were collected from 142 Slovak mother-child pairs. The mean total mercury (THg) concentrations in cord blood and milk were 0.949 μg/L and 0.376 μg/kg, respectively. The mean methylmercury (MeHg) concentration in cord blood was 0.504 μg/L. Fish eaters had significantly higher cord blood MeHg concentrations than non-fish eaters (p = 0.030); no difference was found in milk or cord blood THg concentrations. The bivariate analysis showed a positive correlation between cord blood MeHg and consumption of sea fish and shellfish (rs = 0.320, p < 0.001); after adjustment for the potential confounders, the association was weakened (β = 0.173, p = 0.059). Nevertheless, the decision tree method showed sea fish and shellfish consumption to be the best predictor of cord blood MeHg. Furthermore, a negative association was found between THg concentrations in maternal milk and freshwater fish consumption (β = − 0.193, p = 0.017), which might indicate a beneficial effect of freshwater fish consumption. The results suggest there is a need for future research to investigate the benefits versus the adverse effects of low maternal fish consumption on child development.


Prenatal and postnatal exposure Mercury Methylmercury Fish intake 



We would like to acknowledge Sona Wimmerova, Ph.D., a statistician, and Zuzana Holosova, a Ph.D. student, for their contribution to the present study.

Funding Information

This work was funded by the project of the Ministry of Health of the Slovak Republic No. 2007/07-SZU-03 and supported by Norwegian Financial Mechanism, European Economic Area Financial Mechanism, and budget of the Slovak Republic (project SK0020). Furthermore, our work was supported by the project “Center of excellence of environmental health”, ITMS No. 26240120033, based on the support of Operational Research and Development Program financed from the European Regional Development Fund.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Written informed consent was obtained from all participants. The study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Slovak Medical University, Bratislava, Slovak Republic.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Monika Ursinyova
    • 1
  • Vlasta Masanova
    • 1
  • Iveta Uhnakova
    • 1
  • Lubica Palkovicova Murinova
    • 2
  • Henrieta Patayova
    • 2
  • Katarina Rausova
    • 2
  • Tomas Trnovec
    • 2
  • Jan Stencl
    • 3
  • Martin Gajdos
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Metallomics, Faculty of MedicineSlovak Medical University in BratislavaBratislavaSlovak Republic
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Medicine, Faculty of Public HealthSlovak Medical University in BratislavaBratislavaSlovak Republic
  3. 3.Honorary RectorSlovak Medical University in BratislavaBratislavaSlovak Republic
  4. 4.Department of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacotherapy, Faculty of MedicineSlovak Medical University in BratislavaBratislavaSlovak Republic

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