Prenatal exposure to lead in Spain: Cord blood levels and associated factors

Sabrina Llop*, Xabier Aguinagalde, Jesus Vioque, Jesús Ibarluzea, Mònica Guxens, Maribel Casas, Mario Murcia, María Ruiz, Ascensión Amurrio, Marisa Rebagliato, Loreto Santa Marina, Ana Fernandez-Somoano, Adonina Tardon, Ferran Ballester

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction and Objective: Lead is a known neurotoxic. Fetuses and infants are very vulnerable to lead exposure, since their blood-brain barrier is not completely formed. Hence, there is an importance for monitoring of blood lead levels prenatally and during early infancy. The aim of this study is to evaluate the prenatal exposure to lead and its association with maternal factors in four population based mother-child cohorts in Spain. The present research was carried out within the framework of the INMA project INfancia y Medio Ambiente (Environment and Childhood). Methods: A total of 1462 pregnant women were recruited between 2004 and 2008. Lead was analyzed in a sample of cord blood by thermal decomposition, amalgation, and Atomic Absorption Spectrometry. Maternal sociodemographic, lifestyle and dietary factors were obtained by questionnaires during pregnancy. A multivariate logistic regression model was constructed. The dependent variable was a dichotomous lead level variable (detected vs no detected, i.e. ≥ vs < 2 μg/dL). Results: A low percentage of cord blood samples with lead levels ≥ 2 μg/dL were found (5.9%). Geometric mean and maximum were 1.06 μg/dL and 19 μg/dL, respectively. Smoking at the beginning of pregnancy, age, social class, weight gain during pregnancy, gravidity, and place of residence were the maternal factors associated with detectable cord blood lead levels. Mother's diet does not appear to be a determining factor of lead exposure. Nevertheless, daily intake of iron and zinc may act as a protective factor against having cord blood lead levels ≥ 2 μg/dL. Conclusion: In the different regions of Spain taking part in this study, lead levels to which newborns are exposed are low. Mobilization of lead from bones may be the main contributor to the cord blood levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2298-2305
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Iron
  • Lead exposure
  • Maternal determinants
  • Prenatal
  • Zinc


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