Effects of maternal lead levels in pregnancy outcomes; The ALSPAC study

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


Background/aims: The results of previous studies on the associations of prenatal blood lead levels (BLL) with pregnancy outcomes such as birthweight and pre-term delivery have been inconsistent. Our aim was to study these associations in a large cohort of mother–child pairs in the UK.
Methods: Pregnant women resident in the Avon area of the UK were enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Whole blood samples were collected and analysed by inductively coupled plasma dynamic reaction cell mass spectrometry (n=4285). Self-completion postal questionnaires were used to collect data on lifestyle, diet and environmental factors during pregnancy. Data collected on the infants included anthropometric variables and gestational age at delivery. Statistical analysis was carried out with SPSS v18. Regression models were adjusted for covariates including maternal height, smoking, parity and sex of the baby.
Results:  The mean BLL was 3.67±1.47 (median 3.41, range 0.41–19.14) µg/dl. BLL were significantly higher in women delivering low-birthweight babies (<2500 g; 3.89±2.55 vs 3.65±1.46 µg/dl, p=0.024), but not preterm babies (<37 weeks; 3.85±1.66 vs 3.66±1.45 µg/dl, p=0.053). Increasing BLL was significantly associated with reductions in birthweight, head circumference and crown–heel length (p=0.013, p=0.028 and p=0.026, respectively). BLL ≥5 µg/ml significantly increased the risk of preterm delivery (OR 1.761, 95% CI 1.128–2.751; p=0.013) or having a low-birthweight baby (OR 1.653, 95% CI 1.013–2.969; p=0.044).
Conclusion:  There was an adverse effect of BLL on pregnancy outcomes in this group of women, with reductions in birthweight, head circumference and crown–heel length, and an increased risk of preterm delivery and low birthweight, in adjusted regression models. This could have important long-term effects on the physical and neurological development of the child.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication5th International FESTEM Conference, 22-24 May 2013, Avignon, France
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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