Neurotoxicity Research

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 22–38 | Cite as

Seafood Consumption and Blood Mercury Concentrations in Jamaican Children With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Mohammad H. RahbarEmail author
  • Maureen Samms-Vaughan
  • Katherine A. Loveland
  • Manouchehr Ardjomand-Hessabi
  • Zhongxue Chen
  • Jan Bressler
  • Sydonnie Shakespeare-Pellington
  • Megan L. Grove
  • Kari Bloom
  • Deborah A. Pearson
  • Gerald C. Lalor
  • Eric Boerwinkle


Mercury is a toxic metal shown to have harmful effects on human health. Several studies have reported high blood mercury concentrations as a risk factor for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), while other studies have reported no such association. The goal of this study was to investigate the association between blood mercury concentrations in children and ASDs. Moreover, we investigated the role of seafood consumption in relation to blood mercury concentrations in Jamaican children. Based on data for 65 sex- and age-matched pairs (2–8 years), we used a General Linear Model to test whether there is an association between blood mercury concentrations and ASDs. After controlling for the child’s frequency of seafood consumption, maternal age, and parental education, we did not find a significant difference (P = 0.61) between blood mercury concentrations and ASDs. However, in both cases and control groups, children who ate certain types of seafood (i.e., salt water fish, sardine, or mackerel fish) had significantly higher (all P < 0.05) geometric means blood mercury concentration which were about 3.5 times that of children living in the US or Canada. Our findings also indicate that Jamaican children with parents who both had education up to high school are at a higher risk of exposure to mercury compared to children with at least one parent who had education beyond high school. Based on our findings, we recommend additional education to Jamaican parents regarding potential hazards of elevated blood mercury concentrations, and its association with seafood consumption and type of seafood.


Autism spectrum disorders Blood mercury concentrations Seafood consumption Confounding Parental education Jamaica 



This research is co-funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Institutes of Health Fogarty International Center (NIH-FIC) by a grant [R21HD057808] awarded to the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). We also acknowledge the support provided by the Biostatistics/Epidemiology/Research Design (BERD) component of the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences (CCTS) for this project. CCTS is mainly funded by the NIH Centers for Translational Science Award (NIH CTSA) Grant (UL1 RR024148), awarded to the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston in 2006 by the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NICHD or the NIH-FIC or the NCRR. Finally, we acknowledge contributions by colleagues in the Trace Metals Lab at the department of Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) for analyzing and storing the blood samples for mercury concentrations.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mohammad H. Rahbar
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Maureen Samms-Vaughan
    • 3
  • Katherine A. Loveland
    • 4
  • Manouchehr Ardjomand-Hessabi
    • 8
  • Zhongxue Chen
    • 9
  • Jan Bressler
    • 5
  • Sydonnie Shakespeare-Pellington
    • 3
  • Megan L. Grove
    • 5
  • Kari Bloom
    • 10
  • Deborah A. Pearson
    • 6
  • Gerald C. Lalor
    • 7
  • Eric Boerwinkle
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Division of Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Environmental Sciences (EHGES)The University of Texas School of Public Health at HoustonHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Biostatistics/Epidemiology/Research Design (BERD) Core, Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences (CCTS)The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)HoustonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Child HealthThe University of the West Indies (UWI)KingstonJamaica
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences/Center of Excellence on Development and Psychopathology, and Changing Lives Through Autism Spectrum Services (C.L.A.S.S.) Clinic, UTHealth Medical SchoolThe University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)HoustonUSA
  5. 5.Human Genetics Center, School of Public HealthThe University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)HoustonUSA
  6. 6.Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, UTHealth Medical SchoolThe University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)HoustonUSA
  7. 7.International Centre for Environmental Nuclear ScienceThe University of the West IndiesKingstonJamaica
  8. 8.Biostatistics/Epidemiology/Research Design (BERD) Core, Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences (CCTS)The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)HoustonUSA
  9. 9.Biostatistics/Epidemiology/Research Design (BERD) Core, Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences (CCTS)The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)HoustonUSA
  10. 10.Biostatistics/Epidemiology/Research Design (BERD) Core, Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences (CCTS)The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)HoustonUSA

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