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    Does low-level arsenic exposure affect fetal growth?


    Results from a new study published in Environmental Health Perspectives seem to indicate that fetal growth may be negatively impacted by maternal arsenic exposure during pregnancy.

    The researchers looked at 706 mother-infant pairs with low-level arsenic exposure via drinking water and diet during pregnancy. Maternal levels of second-trimester urinary arsenic and self reports about prepregnancy weight were used to assess in utero arsenic exposure Birth records from medical records were used to assess the impact on birth outcomes.

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    The median range of total urinary arsenic (tAs; inorganic arsenic [iAs] plus monomethylarsonic acid [MMA] plus dimethylarsinic acid [DMA]) was 3.4 µg/L (1.7 – 6.0). Every doubling of tAs was linked to a 0.10-cm decrease in head circumference (95% CI: -0.19, -0.01). Similar results were seen with both MMA and DMA. Among only male infants, each doubling of tAs was linked to a 0.28-cm (95% CI: 0.09, 0.46) increase in birth length (Pinteraction = 0.04) and a similar result was seen for DMA.

    Arsenic exposure was inversely tied to Ponderal Index and the associations differed by maternal weight. Each doubling of tAs was associated with a 0.55 kg/m3 lower Ponderal Index for infants born to overweight/obese mothers (95% CI: -0.82, -0.28, P<0.001). This was not seen in infants born to normal weight mothers. A significant interaction was seen between birth weight and the mother’s weight status, the infant’s sex, and arsenic exposure (Pinteraction = 0.03). Among girls born to overweight/obese mothers, each doubling of tAs was tied to a 62.9-g decrease in birth weight (95% CI: -111.6, -14.2). However, the link was null in the other strata.

    The researchers concluded that low-level arsenic exposure may have a negative impact on fetal growth and that the mother’s weight and the infant’s sex may alter the association. 

    NEXT: Intimate partner violence and adverse birth outcomes 

    Judith M. Orvos, ELS
    Judith M. Orvos, ELS, is a a BELS-certified medical writer and editor and an editorial consultant for Contemporary OB/GYN.
    Miranda Hester
    Ms. Hester is Content Specialist with Contemporary OB/GYN and Contemporary Pediatrics.


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