Exposures to toxic elements or deficiencies of essential elements during pregnancy may be associated to various birth complications or even diseases in early life. The aim of this paper was to assess the concentrations of selected toxic (As, Cd, Cr, Hg, Ni, Pb) and essential trace elements (Co, Cu, Mn, Se and Zn) in blood and urine samples of delivering women at different periods of gestation and cord blood, as well as to evaluate the placental permeability for these elements. A total of 53 women participating in the HEALS-EXHES study were enrolled. In particular, 48 blood samples from 1st trimester of pregnancy, 40 blood samples at delivery, and 31 cord blood at delivery were collected. Moreover, mothers' urine were sampled at the 1st (53 samples), 2nd (53 samples) and 3rd trimester (49 samples) of pregnancy. Results showed that Hg and Mn levels in cord blood were about 2.0 times higher than in maternal blood, suggesting that these elements may be transferred from mother to fetus. The cord blood levels of As and Pb were lower (ca. the 65%) than those in maternal blood, showing that the placenta modulates the rate of transfer for these elements. Essential elements as Cu and Zn showed significantly lower levels in cord than in maternal blood suggesting that the transplacental transfer of these nutrients was very limited. In addition, correlation between paired maternal and cord blood samples for As, Hg and Pb was statistically significant indicating that the fetal body burden may reflect the maternal exposure. Cadmium, Co, Cr, Ni and Se levels did not show significant correlations between maternal and cord blood. Maternal urinary concentrations of trace elements, including As, Cr, Cu, Hg, Se and Zn decreased along pregnancy, which may cause variations in fetal exposure. The levels of toxic and essential elements in maternal blood and urine, as well as in cord blood, were for most elements at the lower end of the ranges found in the scientific literature not being of special concern for pregnant women and the unborn.
- Biological Monitoring/methods
- Fetal Blood/metabolism
- Maternal Exposure
- Trace Elements/analysis