[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Exposure to toxic metals during the prenatal period carries the potential for adverse developmental effects to the fetus, yet such exposure remains largely unmonitored in the United States. The aim of this study was to assess maternal exposure to four toxic metals (arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), mercury (Hg), and lead (Pb)) in a cohort of pregnant women in North Carolina. We analyzed blood samples submitted to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services for blood typing to assess toxic metal levels in pregnant women (n = 211) across six North Carolina counties. Whole blood metal concentrations were measured by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. The association between maternal characteristics, including county of residence, age, and race, and metal exposure was analyzed using multiple linear regression analysis. A large fraction of the blood samples showed detectable levels for each of the four metals. Specifically, As (65.7%), Cd (57.3%), Hg (63.8%), and Pb (100%) were detected in blood samples. Moreover, compared with adult females participating in the Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals and guidelines for pregnant women, some women in the sample population exceeded benchmark levels of Cd, Hg, and Pb. Evidence from this pilot study indicates that pregnant women in North Carolina are exposed to As, Cd, Hg, and Pb and suggests that factors related to maternal county of residence and race may impact maternal exposure levels. As increased levels of one or more of these metals in utero have been associated with detrimental developmental and reproductive outcomes, further study is clearly warranted to establish the impacts to newborns.
PLoS ONE 01/2012; 7(3):e31354. · 3.73 Impact Factor