Maternal-infant biomarkers of prenatal exposure to arsenic and manganese

J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. Nov-Dec 2015;25(6):639-48. doi: 10.1038/jes.2015.45. Epub 2015 Aug 26.


Because arsenic (As) and manganese (Mn) are able to pass the placenta, infants among exposed populations may be exposed to considerable levels in utero. The main objective of this paper is to evaluate infant toenails, hair, and cord blood as biomarkers of prenatal exposure to As and Mn and determine the relationship between maternal and infant As and Mn concentrations in these biomarkers. Of the 1196 pregnant women in Bangladesh who were monitored throughout pregnancy until 1 month post-partum and completed all study visits, we included 711 mother-infant pairs who had at least one maternal and one infant biomarker of exposure available for analysis. Toenail and hair samples were collected from the women during the first trimester and 1 month post-partum and from the infants at the age of 1 month. Cord blood was collected at the time of delivery. Maternal toenail concentrations were correlated with infant toenail concentrations for As and Mn (n=258, r=0.52, 95% CI: 0.43-0.60, P<0.0001 and r=0.39, 95% CI: 0.28-0.49, P<0.0001), respectively. Similarly, maternal hair concentrations were correlated with infant hair As (n=685, r=0.61, 95% CI: 0.56-0.65, P<0.0001) and infant hair Mn (n=686, r=0.21, 95% CI: 0.14-0.28, P<0.0001). Cord blood As was correlated with infant toenail and hair As, although cord blood Mn was only correlated with infant toenail. Toenails and cord blood appear to be valid biomarkers of maternal-fetal transfer of As and Mn, whereas hair may not be a suitable biomarker for in utero exposure to Mn.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Arsenic / analysis*
  • Arsenic / blood
  • Bangladesh / epidemiology
  • Biomarkers
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry*
  • Hair / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Manganese / analysis*
  • Manganese / blood
  • Nails / chemistry*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / metabolism
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Manganese
  • Arsenic