Lead, mercury, and organochlorine compound levels in cord blood in Québec, Canada

Arch Environ Health. 1999 Jan-Feb;54(1):40-7. doi: 10.1080/00039899909602235.


We conducted this study to evaluate blood levels of lead, mercury, and organochlorine compounds in newborns in the Province of Quebec. During 1993 to 1995, we carried out a survey in 10 hospitals located in southern Quebec. During that time, umbilical cord blood samples were obtained from 1109 newborns, and we analyzed each for lead, mercury, 14 polychlorinated biphenyl congeners, and 11 chlorinated pesticides. We used the geometric mean and 95% confidence interval (CI) to describe the results. Mean concentrations of lead and mercury in cord blood were 0.076 micromol/l (95% CI = 0.074, 0.079) and 4.82 nmol/l (95% CI = 4.56, 5.08), respectively. The mean concentrations of total polychlorinated biphenyls (Aroclor 1260) and dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethylene were 0.514 microg/I (95% CI = .493, 0.536) and 0.412 microg/l (95% CI = 0.390, 0.435), respectively. We observed a statistically significant relationship between maternal age and cord blood concentrations of (a) lead, (b) mercury, (c) polychlorinated biphenyls, and (d) dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethylene. In addition, maternal smoking during pregnancy was associated with cord blood lead levels. The cord blood concentrations of lead, mercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, and dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethylene we measured in our study were the lowest levels recently reported in industrialized countries. The results of this study underline the role of public health authorities in the evaluation of biological levels of environmental contaminants among children for the assessment of risk of adverse health effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Birth Weight
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry*
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insecticides / blood*
  • Lead / blood*
  • Male
  • Mercury / blood*
  • Neonatal Screening
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Quebec


  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Insecticides
  • Lead
  • Mercury