Maternal and infant inflammatory markers in relation to prenatal arsenic exposure in a U.S. pregnancy cohort

Environ Res. 2017 Jul;156:426-433. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2017.03.056. Epub 2017 Apr 12.


Introduction: Accumulating evidence indicates that arsenic (As), a potent environmental toxicant, may increase cardiovascular disease risk and adversely affect endothelial function at high levels of exposure. Pregnancy is a vulnerable time for both mother and child; however, studies examining the association between prenatal As exposure and plasma biomarkers of inflammation and endothelial function in mothers and newborns are lacking.

Methods: We examined maternal urinary As levels at gestational weeks 24-28 and levels of inflammatory biomarkers in plasma from 563 pregnant women and 500 infants' cord blood. We assessed a multiplexed panel of circulating inflammatory and endothelial function markers, including tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα), monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 (MCP1), intercellular adhesion molecule (ICAM1) and vascular cell adhesion molecule (VCAM1).

Results: Compared with the bottom tertile, the highest tertile of maternal urinary As during pregnancy was associated with a 145.2ng/ml (95% CI 4.1, 286.3; p=0.04) increase in cord blood ICAM1 and 557.3ng/ml (95% CI -56.4, 1171.1; p=0.09) increase in cord blood VCAM1. Among mothers, the highest tertile of maternal urinary As during pregnancy was related to a 141.8ng/ml (95% CI 26.1, 257.5; p=0.02) increase maternal plasma VCAM1 levels. Urinary As was unrelated to MCP1 or TNFα in maternal plasma and cord blood. In structural equation models, the association between maternal urinary As and infant VCAM was mediated by maternal levels of VCAM (βmediation: 0.024, 95% CI: 0.002, 0.050).

Conclusion: Our observations indicate that As exposure during pregnancy may affect markers of vascular health and endothelial function in both pregnant women and children, and suggest further investigation of the potential impacts on cardiovascular health in these susceptible populations.

Keywords: Arsenic; Endothelial; Inflammatory markers; New Hampshire; Pregnancy cohort.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arsenic / blood
  • Arsenic / toxicity*
  • Arsenic / urine
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Cohort Studies
  • Endothelium / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Inflammation / chemically induced
  • Inflammation / epidemiology
  • Inflammation / urine
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Middle Aged
  • New Hampshire / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / blood
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / epidemiology
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / urine
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Arsenic