Human biomonitoring to evaluate exposure to toxic and essential trace elements during pregnancy. Part B: Predictors of exposure

Beatrice Bocca, Flavia Ruggieri, Anna Pino, Joaquim Rovira, Gemma Calamandrei, Fiorino Mirabella, María Ángeles Martínez, José L. Domingo, Alessandro Alimonti, Marta Schuhmacher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Maternal exposure to toxic and essential trace elements represents a surrogate of exposure to the unborn child. Variables of exposure as sociodemographic, lifestyles and diet may contribute to different exposure of pregnant women to specific trace elements. Blood, urine and cord blood samples of 53 pregnant women of the HEALS-EXHES cohort, recruited in Reus (Catalonia, Spain) between 2016 and 2017, were analysed for the concentrations of As, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Hg, Mn, Ni, Pb, Se and Zn. Univariate and multivariate models were built in order to assess associations between element concentrations in each matrix, and variables obtained by questionnaires on mothers’ characteristics and dietary habits. Results showed several significant associations between various variables and essential trace and toxic elements. Age was associated with higher levels of Cd and Pb in cord blood samples. Multiparous women showed lower levels of Cd in maternal blood and Pb in both maternal and cord blood than nulliparous women. Hispanic mothers presented higher levels of blood As and lower levels of blood Se compared to mothers of different ethnicity. Higher education level was associated with higher As and Hg concentrations in both maternal and cord blood samples. Higher annual income diminished the level of Pb in maternal blood. Smoking in pregnancy incremented the levels of Cd in mothers’ blood. Alcohol consumption may affect the absorption of Cu, Mn and Zn. Supplementations with multivitamins, folic acid and iron showed effects on elements as Cr, Mn, Se and Zn. Regarding food group intake, bluefish incremented Pb levels, while canned fish and seafood affected levels of some elements as As, Hg, Cu and Se. Other elements such as Mn and Pb were influenced by the intake of different kinds of foods. The present results showed that some modifiable lifestyles and food intakes could be the target of interventions to help pregnant women to maintain suitable concentrations of essential elements and lower levels of toxic ones, and to improve consequently neonatal health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109108
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Essential elements
  • In-utero exposure
  • Maternal exposure
  • Predictors of exposure
  • Toxic elements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Environmental Science(all)


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