MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr Caroline M Taylor
Wellcome Trust Research Fellow
Centre for Child and Adolescent Health
Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol
Oakfield House, Oakfield Grove, Bristol
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: Mercury is a toxic metal that is widespread in the environment. In pregnancy, mercury in the mother’ bloodstream is transferred through the placenta to the fetus, where is can affect development of the nervous system. Mercury from vaccines has been the focus of attention particularly in regard to a link with autism in children. However, the amount of mercury used in the vaccines is small in comparison with mercury from the diet and atmospheric pollution, and in the EU at least, childhood vaccines no longer contain this preservative. The fear that mercury is linked to autism has persisted, despite increasing evidence that this is not the case.
The aim of our study was to look at mercury from the diet rather than vaccines – specifically from fish – in pregnant women. We measured the women’s mercury levels in their blood and asked them about how much fish they ate. We then followed up their children for 9 years and recorded how many of them had autism diagnosed within that time. We also measured how many of them had autist traits by measuring their social and communication difficulties. The data were part of the Children of the 90s study (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children – ALSPAC), which is based in Bristol, UK.