Adverse effects of maternal lead levels on birth outcomes in the ALSPAC study: a prospective birth cohort study

Authors

  • CM Taylor,

    Corresponding author
    1. Centre for Child and Adolescent Health, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
    • Correspondence: CM Taylor, Centre for Child and Adolescent Health, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Oakfield House, Oakfield Grove, Bristol BS8 2BN, UK. Email caroline.m.taylor@bristol.ac.uk

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  • J Golding,

    1. Centre for Child and Adolescent Health, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
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  • AM Emond

    1. Centre for Child and Adolescent Health, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
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Abstract

Objective

To study the associations of prenatal blood lead levels (B-Pb) with pregnancy outcomes in a large cohort of mother–child pairs in the UK.

Design

Prospective birth cohort study.

Setting

Avon area of Bristol, UK.

Population

Pregnant women enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC).

Methods

Whole blood samples were collected and analysed by inductively coupled plasma dynamic reaction cell mass spectrometry (n = 4285). Data collected on the infants included anthropometric variables and gestational age at delivery. Linear regression models for continuous outcomes and logistic regression models for categorical outcomes were adjusted for covariates including maternal height, smoking, parity, sex of the baby and gestational age.

Main outcome measures

Birthweight, head circumference and crown–heel length, preterm delivery and low birthweight.

Results

The mean blood lead level (B-Pb) was 3.67 ± 1.47 μg/dl. B-Pb ≥ 5 μg/dl significantly increased the risk of preterm delivery (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 2.00 95% confidence interval [95% CI] 1.35–3.00) but not of having a low birthweight baby (adjusted OR 1.37, 95% CI 0.86–2.18) in multivariable binary logistic models. Increasing B-Pb was significantly associated with reductions in birth weight (β −13.23, 95% CI −23.75 to −2.70), head circumference (β −0.04, 95% CI −0.07 to −0.06) and crown–heel length (β −0.05, 95% CI −0.10 to −0.00) in multivariable linear regression models.

Conclusions

There was evidence for adverse effects of maternal B-Pb on the incidence of preterm delivery, birthweight, head circumference and crown–heel length, but not on the incidence of low birthweight, in this group of women.

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