Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Sciences

Document Type



The number of children born every year with neurological disorders is increasing and some of this increase may be attributed to mercury exposure. Pregnant women ingest contaminated fish, which transfers high mercury concentrations to the unborn fetus. This exposure may result in methyl mercury buildup in the brain of the unborn fetus. Symptoms ranging from minor to severe may be observed as special educational needs in school systems. These include learning disorders, developmental delays, and autism. Louisianans are especially susceptible to mercury contamination because fish and shellfish are a major portion of their cultural diet. This study, through the use of Pearson’s correlation and multiple regression, associates mercury levels in fish and air emissions, to developmental disorders such as autism, learning disabilities and developmental delays that are recorded in Louisiana’s public schools (LDE 2002). Socioeconomic variables such as ethnicity, poverty levels, and population density were used as covariates with mercury to understand their potential influences on the relationship. This study found significant associations between mercury and some of the developmental disorders, specifically autism and developmental delay. While the mercury and socioeconomic variables did not account for all of the variability within the study area, these findings prompt further investigations into the complex relationships between environmental mercury and developmental disorders.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Stephanie Moret