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Mercury Pollution and Prenatal Exposure

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Appetite For a Change page and our Health Issues page.

 Every year, up to 2 million children in the European Union (EU) are born with methylmercury exposures that exceed the EU's safe limit. Of them, 200,000 have levels above the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommended maximum for mercury exposures, which means they're born with hazardous levels of mercury in their tiny bodies.

 These alarming statistics came from a new study revealing the huge health burden and economic toll that mercury pollution is taking on populations worldwide.1

Controlling Mercury Pollution Could Save 700,000 IQ Points a Year

 Mercury is a potent neurotoxin; it doesn't take much to cause serious damage because there is absolutely no safe level of exposure. For instance, if you were to take the amount of mercury in a typical thermometer and put it in a small lake, that lake could be closed down due to environmental hazards.

 Children and fetuses whose brains are still developing are at greatest risk because of their small size, their more permeable blood-brain barriers and the fact that they're detoxification systems are not yet capable of effectively removing toxic challenges. Exposure to mercury while the brain is still developing has been linked to lower IQ, and therefore a lower lifetime learning potential.

 For instance, research has revealed that babies exposed to higher levels of mercury in the womb scored lower on skills tests when they became infants and toddlers.2

 According to the new study, if the effects of mercury on developing brains were converted into IQ points, controlling mercury pollution would save 700,000 IQ points per year in the European Union alone, and lead to significant economic benefits as a result. Researchers noted:

     "These estimates document that efforts to combat mercury pollution and to reduce MeHg exposures will have very substantial economic benefits in Europe"


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