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Maternal Arsenic Exposure Associated With Low Birth Weight in Bangladesh

Huyck, Karen L. MD, PhD, MPH; Kile, Molly L. ScD; Mahiuddin, Golam MS; Quamruzzaman, Quazi MD; Rahman, Mahmuder MD; Breton, Carrie V. ScD; Dobson, Christine B. SB; Frelich, Janna MFA; Hoffman, Elaine PhD; Yousuf, Jabed BSc; Afroz, Sakila BSc; Islam, Shofiqul BSc; Christiani, David C. MD, MPH

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: October 2007 - Volume 49 - Issue 10 - p 1097-1104
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e3181566ba0
Original Articles

Objective: To characterize the effects of maternal arsenic exposure on birth weight.

Methods: Hair, toenail, and drinking water samples were collected from pregnant women (n = 52) at multiple time points during pregnancy and from their newborns after birth. Total arsenic was measured using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. The association between arsenic and birth weight was investigated using linear and logistic regression models.

Results: Maternal hair arsenic measured early in pregnancy was associated with decreased birth weight (β = −193.5 ± 90.0 g, P = 0.04). Maternal hair and drinking water arsenic levels measured at first prenatal visit were significantly correlated with newborn hair arsenic level (ρ = 0.32, P = 0.04 and ρ = 0.31, P = 0.04).

Conclusions: Results suggest that maternal arsenic exposure early in pregnancy negatively affects newborn birth weight and that maternal hair provides the best integrated measure of arsenic exposure.

From the Department of Environmental Health (Drs Huyck, Kile, and Christiani, Ms Dobson, Ms Frelich), Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Mass; Dhaka Community Hospital (Mr Mahiuddin, Dr Quamruzzaman, Dr Rahman, Mr Yousuf, Ms Afroz, Mr Islam), Dhaka, Bangladesh; and Departments of Epidemiology (Dr Breton) and Biostatistics (Dr Hoffman), Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Mass.

CME Available for this Article at

Karen L. Huyck has no financial interest related to this article.

Address correspondence to: David C. Christiani, MD, MPH, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Building 1, Room 1408, 665 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115; E-mail:

©2007The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine