Year of Publication



Public Health

Date Available


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (M.P.H.)

Committee Chair

Dr. Anna Hoover

Committee Member

Dr. Erin Abner

Committee Member

Dr. Erin Haynes


This rapid scoping review examines the current body of epidemiologic research evaluating the potential linkage between environmental exposure to mercury and Alzheimer's disease (AD). Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-80% of all neurodegenerative disease in the United States and was the seventh leading cause of death in Kentucky in 2020. The exact etiology of AD needs further investigation; however, environmental factors such as pesticides, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury have been correlated with development of AD lesions, cognitive decline, and AD. Mercury is a toxic metal that can be found in air, water, and soil, both from natural and human-made sources. The anthropogenic use of mercury contributes to atmospheric pollution and poses a significant risk to human health and the environment. Coal combustion, the primary anthropogenic source of mercury emissions, has tripled since the 1970s and atmospheric mercury concentration has increased to 450% of natural levels. For this rapid scoping review, a search was conducted in February 2023 of two databases, PubMed and Web of Science. Utilizing the inclusion criteria, 167 studies were excluded. The remaining 14 epidemiologic studies became the basis for this rapid scoping review. The scoping review methodology was based on PRISMA’s scoping review guidelines. Of the 14 studies reviewed, 12 were retrospective case-control studies. The rapid scoping review yielded one ecological study and one cross sectional study. Overall, the body of research linking environmental exposure to mercury and AD seems to be inconclusive. The results from this rapid scoping review did not find a consistent, significant link between mercury exposure measured through biomonitoring and AD prevalence. Explanations for these differing results include the population sampled and the biomarker used to measure mercury exposure.

Included in

Public Health Commons