Low-level mercury in children: Associations with sleep duration and cytokines TNF-α and IL-6

Brooks B. Gump, Elena Gabrikova, Kestutis Bendinskas, Amy K. Dumas, Christopher D. Palmer, Patrick J. Parsons, James A. MacKenzie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


There is a sizeable literature suggesting that mercury (Hg) exposure affects cytokine levels in humans. In addition to their signaling role in the immune system, some cytokines are also integrally associated with sleep behavior. In this cross-sectional study of 9-11 year old children ( N=100), we measured total blood Hg in whole blood, serum levels of tumor necrosis factor α (TNF-α) and interleukin 6 (IL-6), and objectively measured sleep and activity using actigraphy. Increasing blood Hg was associated with significantly shorter sleep duration and lower levels of TNF-α. IL-6 was not associated with sleep or blood Hg. This study is the first to document an association between total blood Hg and sleep (albeit a small effect), and the first to consider the associations of total blood Hg with cytokines TNF-α and IL-6 in a pediatric sample. Further research using alternative designs (e.g., time-series) is necessary to determine if there is a causal pathway linking low-level Hg exposure to sleep restriction and reduced cytokines.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)228-232
Number of pages5
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - Oct 2014


  • Children
  • Cytokines
  • IL-6
  • Mercury
  • Sleep
  • TNF-α

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • General Environmental Science


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