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Economic evaluation of health consequences of prenatal methylmercury exposure in France

Céline Pichery1*, Martine Bellanger1, Denis Zmirou-Navier123, Nadine Fréry4, Sylvaine Cordier3, Anne Roue-LeGall1, Philippe Hartemann25 and Philippe Grandjean67

Author Affiliations

1 EHESP School of Public Health, Rennes Cedex 35043, France

2 Lorraine University Medical School, Public Health department, Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy cedex, France

3 INSERM U 1085-IRSET (Institut de Recherche Santé Environnement Travail), Rennes 1 University, Rennes cedex 35042, France

4 Institut de veille sanitaire, Département Santé Environnement, Saint Maurice cedex 94415, France

5 INSERM U 954 "Nutrition, genetics and environmental risks”, Medical School, Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy cedex 54505, France

6 Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark,Odense DK-5000, Denmark

7 Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02215, USA

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Environmental Health 2012, 11:53  doi:10.1186/1476-069X-11-53

Published: 10 August 2012



Evidence of a dose–response relationship between prenatal exposure to methylmercury (MeHg) and neurodevelopmental consequences in terms of IQ reduction, makes it possible to evaluate the economic consequences of MeHg exposures.


To perform an economic evaluation of annual national benefits of reduction of the prenatal MeHg exposure in France.


We used data on hair-Hg concentrations in French women of childbearing age (18–45 years) from a national sample of 126 women and from two studies conducted in coastal regions (n = 161and n = 503). A linear dose response function with a slope of 0.465 IQ point reduction per μg/g increase in hair-Hg concentration was used, along with a log transformation of the exposure scale, where a doubling of exposure was associated with a loss of 1.5 IQ points. The costs calculations utilized an updated estimate of €2008 17,363 per IQ point decrement, with three hypothetical exposure cut-off points (hair-Hg of 0.58, 1.0, and 2.5 μg/g).


Because of higher exposure levels of women in coastal communities, the annual economic impacts based on these data were greater than those using the national data, i.e. € 1.62 billion (national), and € 3.02 billion and € 2.51 billion (regional), respectively, with the linear model, and € 5.46 billion (national), and € 9.13 billion and € 8.17 billion (regional), with the log model, for exposures above 0.58 μg/g.


These results emphasize that efforts to reduce MeHg exposures would have high social benefits by preventing the serious and lifelong consequences of neurodevelopmental deficits in children.

Economic evaluation; Methylmercury; Prenatal exposure; Neurodevelopmental deficits