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Your Environment. Your Health.

Prenatal Lead Exposure Linked with Decreased Stature and Weight in Early Childhood

Allan C. Just, Ph.D., Robert O. Wright, M.D., Heather H. Burris, M.D., Andrea Baccarelli, M.D., Ph.D.
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Harvard Medical School, Columbia University
R00ES023450, R01ES014930, R01ES013744, R01ES021357, P30ES023515, K23ES022242

NIEHS grantees and colleagues reported an association between higher maternal blood levels during the third trimester of pregnancy and stunted growth in their children. The study, conducted in Mexico, adds to previous findings linking lead with decreased stature and weight in early childhood.

The new study involved participants in the NIH-funded Programming Research in Obesity, Growth, Environment and Social Stressors cohort in Mexico City. To determine how lead exposure during pregnancy is associated with children's growth parameters, the researchers collected blood lead levels in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy as well as at delivery. They also assessed the bone lead levels of the mothers as a long-term exposure marker. The researchers measured the height, weight, body mass index, and percentage body fat of the study participants’ children 4 to 6 years after the prenatal lead exposure.

The researchers found that higher levels of maternal blood lead during the third trimester were significantly associated with decreased height and weight in the 4-to-6-year-old children. Ongoing follow-up and longitudinal analyses are needed to determine how stunted growth in early childhood impacts the children’s overall growth trajectory and other health outcomes.

Citation: Renzetti S, Just AC, Burris HH, Oken E, Amarasiriwardena C, Svensson K, Mercado-Garcia A, Cantoral A, Schnaas L, Baccarelli AA, Wright RO, Tellez-Rojo MM. 2017. The association of lead exposure during pregnancy and childhood anthropometry in the Mexican PROGRESS cohort. Environ Res 152:226-232.