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Issue 3, 2018
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Individual heavy metal exposure and birth outcomes in Shenqiu county along the Huai River Basin in China

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Background: Exposure to heavy metals during pregnancy is an important risk factor for adverse birth outcomes. We aimed to investigate the current heavy metal exposure levels in cord blood from healthy pregnant women residing in the Huaihe River Basin, China, and examined the association between heavy metal levels and dietary habits and lifestyle factors. In this study, we measured the exposure levels of five heavy metals in the umbilical cord blood from 350 healthy pregnant women and administered 350 self-reported questionnaires regarding the general characteristics and dietary habits of those women. Methods: This study was undertaken in Shenqiu county, Henan province, which is in the area of the Huai River Basin, in a cohort of pregnant women and newborn babies in 2013–2014. We recruited a sample of 1000 pregnant women among those receiving prenatal examination, measured the real individual newborn exposure to heavy metals in serum by ICP-MS, collected information regarding the pregnant women with a questionnaire survey and obtained data on environmental quality from environmental protection agencies and the available literature. We estimated the daily individual exposure to heavy metals of all the 1000 participants throughout the pregnancy and recorded their birth outcomes after delivery. Then we analyzed the association between birth outcome and individual exposure to heavy metals. Results: 54 newborn children had birth defects. The geometric means of cord blood levels of As, Cd, Cr, Pb and Hg were measured at 0.92 ± 1.01 ng mL−1, 0.11 ± 0.17 ng mL−1, 4.57 ± 5.02 ng mL−1, 3.37 ± 3.81 ng mL−1 and 0.89 ± 1.69 ng mL−1 for subjects (n = 54) who gave birth to infants with birth defects and 0.43 ± 0.88 ng mL−1, 0.52 ± 3.86 ng mL−1, 1.94 ± 2.92 ng mL−1, 4.38 ± 4.96 ng mL−1 and 0.43 ± 0.91 ng mL−1 for subjects (n = 296) with healthy infants, respectively. The contents of all five heavy metals in the whole blood of both of these two groups were higher than the reference values of the Chinese general population (P < 0.001). Conclusions: The occurrence of birth defects was 15.4% in this cohort, and was correlated to exposure of parents to environments containing heavy metal contaminants in Shenqiu county in the Huai River Basin. The heavy metal exposure situation of the investigated population had serious effects in terms of reproductive defects in children. The specific link between newborn defects and environmental heavy metal contaminants suggested that contamination in pregnant women persisted over time, and that the exposure may have a long term effect.

Graphical abstract: Individual heavy metal exposure and birth outcomes in Shenqiu county along the Huai River Basin in China

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Publication details

The article was received on 08 Jan 2018, accepted on 06 Mar 2018 and first published on 07 Mar 2018

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C8TX00009C
Citation: Toxicol. Res., 2018,7, 444-453
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    Individual heavy metal exposure and birth outcomes in Shenqiu county along the Huai River Basin in China

    Z. Lin, X. Chen, Z. Xi, S. Lin, X. Sun, X. Jiang and H. Tian, Toxicol. Res., 2018, 7, 444
    DOI: 10.1039/C8TX00009C

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