Although the anti-knocking agents used in Taiwan do not contain manganese, there are relatively high concentrations of the element in diesel fuel. As such, there have been many concerns about the impact of exposure to diesel fuels on health. This study was conducted in Taiwan to investigate the relationship between the concentration of manganese in cord blood of Taiwanese newborns and the geographic density of petrol stations as a surrogate for determining manganese emissions from vehicular traffic. A total of 1526 full-term newborns without major congenital malformations were consecutively recruited from various medical facilities from May 2004 to July 2005. Questionnaires were completed by the newborns' mothers after delivery to collect information on demographic characteristics, medical history, living environment, and other factors. Cord blood samples were collected at birth and analyzed for manganese and lead using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. The geographic density of petrol stations within a 10 km zone around each newborn's residence was calculated for 1343 newborns using the Arc9 Geographic Information System. The geometric means of cord blood manganese and lead concentrations were 47.0 μg/L (GSD=1.42) and 12.6 μg/L (GSD=1.76), respectively. After adjusting for potential confounding factors, including maternal age, and maternal education, the results of a multiple linear regression model indicated that the concentration of cord blood manganese increased monotonically with an increasing density of petrol stations. However, no such association was found for levels of lead in cord blood. Further smoothing spline model analysis indicated that a ten unit increment in petrol station density made cord blood manganese and lead levels change by factors of 1.0092 (95% CI: 1.0058, 1.0127) and 0.9994 (95% CI: 0.9890, 0.9998), respectively. This finding suggests that exposure to manganese-containing fuel from motor vehicles may result in elevated manganese levels in the fetus. Further research is warranted to explore the relationship between traffic-related manganese exposure and potential adverse effects on fetal development.
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