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Your Environment. Your Health.

Public health and economic consequences of methyl mercury toxicity to the developing brain

Environmental Health Economic Analysis Annotated Bibliography


Research article Cost analysis (CA)
Trasande L, Landrigan PJ, and Schecter C
Environmental Health Perspectives
The cost of neurodevelopmental impacts (loss of intelligence) from methyl mercury of anthropogenic origin was estimated in this study to be $8.7 billion annually. Of this total, $1.3 billion each year was attributable to mercury emissions from American power plants. These data indicated an urgent need on economic grounds for regulatory intervention at the federal level to minimize mercury emissions.
Infants and Children

Health Outcomes

  • Neurodevelopmental outcomes (IQ deficit)

Environmental Agents

List of Environmental Agents:

  • Metals (methyl mercury)

Source of Environmental Agents:

  • American power plants

Economic Evaluation / Methods and Source


  • Cost analysis (CA)

Cost Measured:

  • Loss of earnings over lifetime due to decreased IQ

Potential Cost Measures:

  • Cardiovascular impacts
  • costs of mercury exposure to children in the first two years of life
  • other societal costs beyond decreased lifetime earnings
  • non-cognitive impacts (e.g., criminality and antisocial behavior)

Benefits Measures: (Not available)

Potential Benefits: (Not available)

Location: (Not available)

Models Used:

  • Environmentally Attributable Fraction (EAF) model
  • linear dose-response model
  • economic forecasting model

Methods Used:

  • To assess the costs that may result from exposure of the developing brain to methyl mercury, the authors estimated the economic impact of anthropogenic methyl mercury exposure in the 2000 US birth cohort. The authors — 1) applied the EAF model to assess the neurodevelopmental impacts and costs due to methyl mercury exposure; 2) estimated the costs of the neurodevelopmental impacts and further parsed out the cost of anthropogenic methyl mercury exposure resulting from emissions of American electrical generation facilities; 3) conducted sensitivity analysis using a linear dose response model to set a reference dose for mercury exposure (i.e., to determine the economic costs and impact of lower/upper bounds of methyl mercury exposure on intelligence); and 4) used an economic forecasting model (Schwartz et al., 1995) that was applied to NHANES data on prevalence on mercury exposure in women of childbearing age to estimate the costs associated with IQ loss.

Sources Used:

  • Benchmark dose level (BMDL) for cord blood mercury dose concentration (US EPA); Toxicological effects of methyl mercury (NRC, 2000); NHANES (1999-2000); Societal benefits of reducing lead exposure (Schwartz, 1994); American birth cohort data (CDC, 2000); National Marine Fisheries Service (2002); Global Mercury Assessment Report (UNEP, 2002); Mercury Study Report to Congress (US EPA, 1996, 2004); Locating and estimating air emissions from sources of mercury and mercury compounds (US EPA, 1997); National Emissions Inventories for Hazardous Air Pollutants (US EPA, 1999); additional sources cited in publication

Economic Evaluation / Methods and Source


  • Trasande L, Landrigan PJ, and Schecter C. 2005. Public health and economic consequences of methyl mercury toxicity to the developing brain. Environmental Health Perspectives.
  • Pubmed
  • DOI

NIEHS Funding:

  • P42ES07384

Other Funding: (Not available)

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