Mercury in Newborns in the Lake Superior Basin: Biomonitoring - Minnesota Dept. of Health

Mercury in Newborns in the Lake Superior Basin


This project was conducted to assess population-level exposures of newborn infants within the Lake Superior Basin. Fetuses, infants, and young children are most at risk from mercury exposure because small amounts can damage the developing brain and nervous system. The population was approximately 1,465 newborn babies born to women living in the Basin.

This project was led by the Fish Consumption Advisory Program at MDH and primarily funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The Minnesota Biomonitoring Program contributed funds and analytical resources to support the project. It was conducted in collaboration with state newborn screening programs in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. These programs collect a few drops of blood from the heel of newborns soon after birth and analyze them for a number of heritable or congenital disorders. In Minnesota, the study was conducted with informed consent.

The MDH Public Health Laboratory analyzed mercury in a residual portion of the newborn blood spot. Assessing the feasibility of this novel laboratory method was another purpose of the pilot project.


Results are available on the MDH Environmental Health Division's Mercury in Newborns in the Lake Superior Basin. For information about mercury levels in the general U.S. population, see Chemicals in People: Biomonitoring (mercury).

Next steps

The Minnesota Biomonitoring Program will explore ways to follow up on results from this project and the methods used based on recommendations from the program's Advisory Panel. The program also is conducting another mercury-related project: see Pregnancy and Newborns Exposure Study.

More Information

For questions or more information on the project and its results, contact: Pat McCann, or (651)201-4915. For questions about next steps, contact the Minnesota Biomonitoring Program.

Updated Friday, September 25, 2015 at 12:12PM