Fri, Dec 29, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Eating seafood may damage the fetus' health, study says


A traditional practice thought to be healthy for pregnant women could in fact damage the health of fetuses, researchers said.

Pregnant women who eat fish more than three times a week could be putting their baby at risk because of higher mercury levels in their blood, according to a study by local researchers released yesterday.

Mercury exposure is especially risky for fetuses when their internal organs are developing, and can result in neuronal, kidney and brain damage, and stunt growth.

Expectant mothers in societies with Chinese influence traditionally tend to eat more fish, as they believe it is healthier than red or white meat.

A study of 65 pregnant women in Taipei found mercury concentrations of around 9.1 micrograms per liter in their blood and around 10 micrograms per liter in blood in their umbilical cords.

The researchers also found an average of 19 nanograms per gram of mercury in their placenta.

Such levels were far beyond what is considered safe, the researchers wrote in a paper to be published in January in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Eighty-nine percent of the women had blood mercury concentrations exceeding the US National Research Council's recommended value of 5.8 micrograms per liter.

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