Boucher O, Jacobson SW, Plusquellec P, Dewailly E, Ayotte P, Forget-Dubois N, Jacobson JL, Muckle G
Environ. Health Perspect. 2012 Oct;120(10):1456-61
BACKGROUND: Prenatal exposure to methylmercury (MeHg) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) has been associated with impaired performance on attention tasks in previous studies, but the extent to which these cognitive deficits translate into behavioral problems in the classroom and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) remains unknown. By contrast, lead (Pb) exposure in childhood has been associated with ADHD and disruptive behaviors in several studies.
OBJECTIVES: In this study we examined the relation of developmental exposure to MeHg, PCBs, and Pb to behavioral problems at school age in Inuit children exposed through their traditional diet.
METHODS: In a prospective longitudinal study conducted in the Canadian Arctic, exposure to contaminants was measured at birth and at school age. An assessment of child behavior (n = 279; mean age = 11.3 years) was obtained from the child's classroom teacher on the Teacher Report Form (TRF) from the Child Behavior Checklist, and the Disruptive Behavior Disorders Rating Scale (DBD).
RESULTS: Cord blood mercury concentrations were associated with higher TRF symptom scores for attention problems and DBD scores consistent with ADHD. Current blood Pb concentrations were associated with higher TRF symptom scores for externalizing problems and with symptoms of ADHD (hyperactive-impulsive type) based on the DBD.
CONCLUSIONS: To our knowledge, this study is the first to identify an association between prenatal MeHg and ADHD symptomatology in childhood and the first to replicate previously reported associations between low-level childhood Pb exposure and ADHD in a population exposed to Pb primarily from dietary sources.