Neurodevelopment of Infants in a Mercury Contaminated Crea in Zimbabwe
1 University Hospital Munich, Institute and Outpatient Clinic for Occupational, Social and Environmental Medicine, WHO Collaborating Centre for Occupational Health, Munich, Germany
2 Institute of Public Health, Medical Decision Making and Health Technology Assessment, Department of Public Health and Health Technology Assessment, University for Health Sciences, Medical Informatics and Technology (UMIT), Hall i.T., Austria
3 University of Zimbabwe, Harare, Zimbabwe
4 Institute of Forensic Medicine, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Nussbaumstr. 26, D-80336 Munich, Germany
In Kadoma in Zimbabwe small-scale gold mining is widespread. Mothers and their infants are exposed in the mining communities to the toxic inorganic mercury vapors from processing the ore using elemental mercury. Methyl-mercury is a well known neurotoxin and endangers the regular development of children. This study examined the influence of exposure to elemental mercury for breast fed infants in Kadoma. 121 mother-child pairs were selected, 40 from a non-exposed control area, 81 from the exposed area in Kadoma. Urine, hair and breast milk was analyzed for total mercury. Mainly urine and breast milk levels were significantly higher for the exposed infants. The infants were clinically examined, and their developmental status assessed. In relation to the exposure markers in urine and breast milk several developmental parameters showed statistically significant negative results, such as the capability of infants to sit, crawl or stand at a certain age. These analyzes indicate that a higher body burden with elemental mercury decreases the speed of a regular development of infants.
Key words: Neurodevelopment / mercury vapor / breast milk / small scale gold mining / Zimbabwe
© Owned by the authors, published by EDP Sciences, 2013
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