Link Between Mercury Exposure and Autoimmune Diseases in Women

Subjection to high levels of mercury is well-known to trigger harm to the nervous system, and it is thought to be especially unsafe for the developing fetus. But a new research by investigators from the University of Michigan states that even at levels regarded to be safe, mercury exposure may be dangerous to health; it may be a threat aspect for autoimmune problems among women of childbearing age.

Researchers observed that the higher the levels of methylmercury (a substance usually found in fish) the higher the risk of autoimmune diseases in reproductive-age women.

The study lead by Dr. Emily Somers, reported its results in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Mercury is a naturally occurring metal that comes in different forms. When mercury enters the atmosphere, it mixes with other elements to create inorganic or organic substances that, if taken in at high levels, may be dangerous to human health.

When mercury goes into water or soil, for instance, microscopic organisms change it to an organic compound known as methylmercury. This element can accumulate in the tissue of fish or shellfish. With respect to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nearly all methylmercury exposures in the US stem from eating fish or shellfish that contain high levels of the substance.

Consuming high levels of mercury is connected with permanent brain problems and kidney damage. While in pregnancy, the dangerous results of mercury may also be passed to the fetus, resulting in developmental issues.

As such, Us FDA and the EPA say pregnant women shouldn’t consume more than 340 g of low-mercury fish per week. Fish that contains high levels of mercury – like as swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish – must be prevented, with respect to the suggestions.

But in this recent research, Dr. Somers and her team say that for women of reproductive age, taking fish even at lower levels suggested by the FDA and the EPA may cause one more harm to health; it could increase the risk of autoimmune problems, like as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, in these conditions the immune system attacks and damages the body’s own tissues.

Subjection to mercury ‘stood out as major risk aspect for autoimmunity’

The scientists evaluated data of 1,352 females aged 16-49 years who were part of the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

The scientists evaluated the levels of mercury present among individuals by assessing hair and blood samples.

They identified that the greater the levels of mercury among the women, the greater the levels of autoantibodies – proteins that are a attribute of autoimmune diseases. Autoantibodies are made when an individual’s immune system is not able to distinguish between healthy tissues and possibly harmful cells.

“The existence of autoantibodies does not essentially mean they will result in an autoimmune condition,” Dr. Somers notes. “On the other hand, we know that autoantibodies are significant predictors of future autoimmune condition, and may predate the signs and diagnosis of an autoimmune disease by years.”

The scientists identified that methylmercury was the most powerful driver for autoantibodies. “Especially,” they add, “a dose-response connection was noticed for low methylmercury subjection levels in the range usually considered safe for women of childbearing potential by regulatory bodies.”

With respect to the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association, about 50 million individuals in the US are residing with an autoimmune condition. Of these, over 75% are women. Women are 3 times more probably to develop an auto-immune disease than men.

With these data and their results in mind, the scientists say women of reproductive age must think about the amount of seafood they are taking. Dr. Somers adds:

“In our research, subjection to mercury stood out as the primary risk aspect for autoimmunity. For women of childbearing age, who are at particular threat of developing this form of disease, it may be particularly essential to keep observe of seafood consumption.”