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Your Environment. Your Health.

New Method Links Metal Mixture to Reduced Fetal Growth

Jia Chen, Sc.D.
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Dartmouth College
R01ES022223, P01ES022832, P42ES007373, P30ES023515, R24ES028507, K99ES029571

NIEHS grantees determined that exposure to a mixture of metals predominated by arsenic and cadmium was associated with reduced fetal growth. Although previous studies showed independent associations between arsenic and cadmium exposures and fetal growth restriction, this study was the first to demonstrate that the effects of these metals persist even after accounting for the presence of other metals

The researchers used maternal toenails collected from the Rhode Island Health Study to measure a panel of 16 trace metals. Most trace metals detected in the participants were on par with levels reported in other U.S. populations. They integrated advanced bioinformatics and biostatistics methods to evaluate metal signatures associated with being small for gestational age and identified a positive association with a multimetal signature dominated by arsenic and cadmium. They also found that this specific mixture of metals was associated with placental genes related to fetal growth, including metabolic hormone secretion. Evaluating the relationship between the multimetal signatures and placental genes highlighted potential molecular pathways through which metals might affect pregnancy outcomes.

According to the authors, the study provided a novel approach that integrated advanced bioinformatics and biostatistics methods to delineate potential placental pathways through which trace metal exposures might affect fetal growth.

Citation: Deyssenroth MA, Gennings C, Liu SH, Peng S, Hao K, Lambertini L, Jackson BP, Karagas MR, Marsit CJ, Chen J. 2018. Intrauterine multi-metal exposure is associated with reduced fetal growth through modulation of the placental gene network. Environ Int 120:373-381.

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