Mercury (Hg) is a well-known neurotoxicant. Hg exposure at high levels can harm individuals of all ages. Even low level exposure to Hg can damage the brain of fetuses and young children, and affect their central nervous system and cognitive development. The aims of our study were to measure total Hg levels in infant umbilical cord blood and to investigate the risk factors associated with total Hg cord blood levels in various cities in China. Our goal was to provide clues for the prevention of Hg exposure in utero. The results indicated that the average cord blood mercury levels (CBMLs) were (1.81 +/- 1.93) microg/L, which were lower than those found in most previous studies. The concentrations also differed according to geographic region. The CBMLs were not only associated with family economic and living conditions, but also with diet in pregnant women, especially the intake of marine fish, shellfish, poultry, formula milk and fruits.