Accessing Disadvantaged Pregnant Women in Houston, Texas, and Characterizing Biomarkers of Metal Exposure: A Feasibility Study

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Apr 29;14(5):474. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14050474.


Abstract: Communities of color or low socioeconomic status are disproportionately affected by metal exposure given spatial variability of the ambient levels of these contaminants. Despite this, there is little research characterizing metal concentrations in blood among disadvantaged populations in the U.S., especially among pregnant women who are particularly vulnerable and difficult to access. Thus, we conducted a pilot study among disadvantaged pregnant women in Houston, Texas to assess willingness to participate in key activities of an epidemiologic study and characterize exposures to 16 metals. Thirty-one women attending a Medicaid-serving prenatal clinic were included in this pilot study and completed an interviewer-administered questionnaire. We obtained and measured metal compounds in whole blood samples for 22 of these women during third-trimester prenatal visits. Median whole blood concentrations of Ni, As, Cd, and Pb were 27, 1.4, 0.6, and 6.3 µg/L, respectively. Most women were willing to participate in critical aspects of a research study, including wearing a personal air-sampling badge for 2-3 days (87.1%), receiving ultrasounds (83.9%), and providing blood draws (64.5%). Despite the small sample, our results provide evidence of women's metal exposure and their willingness to participate in future research studies to elucidate exposure pathways and explore related health effects experienced among this population of disadvantaged pregnant women.

Keywords: biomarker; blood metal; disadvantaged populations; pregnant women; prenatal.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arsenic / blood*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Metals, Heavy / blood*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Pregnancy / blood
  • Texas
  • Vulnerable Populations
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Arsenic