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Korean Journal of Preventive Medicine 1989;22(3): 368-379.
Hair Heavy Metal Contents in Mentally Retarded Children III: In Association with Mercury.
Ki Hwan Han, Bong Ki Jang, Soon Woo Park, Doohie Kim
Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, College of Medicine, Kyungpook National University, Korea.
The relationship between mercury level of hair and mental retardation was investigated. The 297 subjects with mental retardation were drawn from two schools providing special educational services, one, consisted of children living in an orphan home, another, children with parents. The 117 control subjects were drawn from whom had got average or above average academic achievement in a regular elementary school. Hair sample were taken from the nape of the neck and the mercury analysis was carried out on an atomic absorption spectrophotometer(IL 551). There was no relationship between mercury contents and age, and there was a statistically significant difference in mercury contents between male and female in the mentally retarded children living with parents. Children in the retarded group had significantly higher mercury contents compared with control group except the female group with parents. Also, the mercury levels in the retarded group living in an orphan home were significantly higher than that of the retarded group with parents. The concomitant diseases were Down's syndrome, epilepsy, cerebral palsy and autism. There were statistically significant differences in hair mercury levels in the cases of accompanying Down's syndrome and cerebral palsy in male and Down's syndrome and autism in female compared with the control group of the same sex. The most accompanying handicap was speech disturbance(40.7%) and the others were crippled, emotional disturbance etc. The percentages of double handicap were 66.7% among 6 persons exceeding 6ppm of their hair mercury contents, 10.4% among 3~6 ppm and 15.7% among the group of 3ppm or less. The findings of this study suggest that the more opportunities of exposure to mercury in mentally retarded children may have occurred, so it can not be excluded the possibility of mercury as a contributing factor to mental retardation. Therefore, the causal relationship between mercury levels and mental retardation should be established through the examinations about their living environments, dietary pattern, eating habit etc.
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