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Environ Int. 2012 Apr;40:39-43. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2011.11.014. Epub 2011 Dec 27.
Mercury and thyroid autoantibodies in U.S. women, NHANES 2007-2008.
Gallagher CM1, Meliker JR.
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Abstract
Associations between positive thyroid autoantibodies and total blood mercury in women were evaluated using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2007-2008. Women are at increased risk for autoimmune disorders, mercury exposure has been associated with cellular autoimmunity and mercury accumulates in the thyroid gland. We used multiple logistic regression to evaluate the associations between total bloodmercury and thyroglobulin autoantibody antibody positivity and thyroid peroxidase autoantibody positivity in non-pregnant, non-lactating women aged 20 and older not currently using birth control pills or other hormone therapies, adjusted for demographic factors, menopausal status, nutrient intake and urine iodine (n=2047). Relative to women with the lowest mercury levels (≤0.40 μg/L), women with mercury >1.81 μg/L (upper quintile) showed 2.24 (95% CI=1.22, 4.12) greater odds for thyroglobulin autoantibody positivity (p(trend)=0.032); this relationship was not evident for thyroid peroxidase autoantibody positivity. Results suggest an association between mercury and thyroglobulin autoantibody positivity.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Abstract
Methyl mercury is a well-recognized health hazard. It is an environmental contaminant that accumulates in the food chain. The primary source of mercury exposure for humans is through the consumption of contaminated fish. We studied the effects of indirect methyl mercury exposure on the immune system of Sprague–Dawley rats. The effects of different forms of methyl mercury on immune system development were studied in Sprague–Dawley rats at 6 and 12 weeks of age. Rats were indirectly exposed to mercury during gestation and during nursing by exposing pregnant rats to either 5 or 500 μg/liter of methyl mercury chloride (CH3HgCl) or 5 μg/liter of methyl mercury sulfide [(CH3Hg)2S] in their drinking water. Total body, splenic, and thymic weights were measured, and NK cell cytolytic activity and lymphoproliferative response to T and B cell mitogens were evaluated in the offspring. At 6 weeks of age, total body and splenic weights were significantly increased in both high- and low-dose methyl mercury chloride-exposed groups. Rats exposed to methyl mercury sulfide had a significant increase in thymic weight at 6 weeks of age. At 12 weeks, the total body and organ weights were not different from controls. The lymphocyte proliferative response of splenocytes to PWM was enhanced at 6 weeks in both CH3HgCl exposed groups and not affected in the (CH3Hg)2S exposed group. NK cell activity was not affected in either group at 6 weeks of age. At age 12 weeks, NK cell activity was statistically significantly decreased by 56.6% in both CH3HgCl-exposed groups and not affected in the (CH3Hg)2S-exposed rats. The lymphocyte proliferative response of splenocytes to the B cell mitogen pokeweed remained increased in the CH3HgCl groups. Indirect exposure of rats (during gestation and nursing) to different forms of methyl mercury reveals that chloride forms have prolonged predominantly enhancing effects on lymphoproliferative response of splenocytes, followed by significant depression of NK cell activity.