A Prospective Cohort Study Examining the Associations of Maternal Arsenic Exposure With Fetal Loss and Neonatal Mortality

Am J Epidemiol. 2019 Feb 1;188(2):347-354. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwy243.


Arsenic crosses the placenta, possibly increasing the risk of adverse reproductive outcomes. We aimed to examine the association between maternal arsenic exposure and fetal/neonatal survival using data from a prospective cohort study of 1,616 maternal-infant pairs recruited at a gestational age of ≤16 weeks in Bangladesh (2008-2011). Arsenic concentration in maternal drinking water was measured at enrollment. Extended Cox regression (both time-dependent coefficients and step functions) was used to estimate the time-varying association between maternal arsenic exposure and fetal/neonatal death (all mortality between enrollment and 1 month after birth). In a sensitivity analysis, we assessed gestational arsenic exposure using maternal urine samples taken at enrollment. We observed 203 fetal losses and 20 neonatal deaths. Higher arsenic exposure was associated with a slightly decreased mortality rate up to the middle of the second trimester, and then the mortality rate switched directions around 20 weeks' gestation. In the step function model, the hazard ratios for combined mortality (fetal loss and neonatal death) per unit increase in the natural log of drinking water arsenic concentration (μg/L) ranged from 1.35 (95% CI: 1.08, 1.69) in weeks 25-28 to 0.81 (95% CI: 0.65, 1.02) in weeks 9-12. This nonlinear association suggests that arsenic may exert survival pressure on developing fetuses, potentially contributing to survival bias, and may also indicate that arsenic toxicity differs by fetal developmental stage.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arsenic / analysis*
  • Bangladesh / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Fetal Mortality / trends*
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality / trends*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimesters
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Young Adult


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Arsenic