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Low exposure to arsenic during pregnancy exerts high impact on fetal growth

Posted:  Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Arsenic exposure during pregnancy impairs fetal development! It is well known that the mother’s diet during pregnancy has a direct influence on foetal growth and development. A new research finding suggests that the consumption of arsenic-contaminated food or water during pregnancy may adversely affect fetal growth.

The study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives investigated the possible impact of low levels of arsenic on fetal outcome in the general U.S. population. More than 700 pairs of women and their newborns were screened for in utero arsenic exposure. Details such as maternal body mass index during pregnancy, mother’s urinary arsenic levels, infant’s gender, birth weight, height, and head circumference were recorded.

The study showed that higher levels of arsenic content in the mother’s urine during the second trimester was associated with reduced head circumference at birth. The infant's birth weight and birth length were associated with the mother's urinary arsenic levels; these associations varied based on the mother's pre-pregnancy body mass index and the infant's sex.

Highlighting the public health implication of the study, Margaret Karagas, Professor and Chair of Geisel's Department of Epidemiology said, "This is a particular concern in rural regions where many people rely on private, unregulated drinking water. People who use private wells need to have them tested for arsenic and other contaminants as recommended by their local public health agency."

Diane Gilbert-Diamond, the lead author and an assistant professor of epidemiology said, "Future research is needed to assess whether the relatively small differences we found correspond to meaningful differences in how infants and children grow and develop."

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