Pre- and postnatal environmental boron exposure and infant growth: Results from a mother-child cohort in northern Argentina

Environ Res. 2019 Apr:171:60-68. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2019.01.012. Epub 2019 Jan 7.


Background: Experimental studies show developmental toxicity of boron and we recently found impaired weight and length in newborns of mothers exposed to boron through drinking water during pregnancy.

Objectives: To evaluate potential impact of pre- and postnatal boron exposure on infant anthropometry.

Methods: In our mother-child cohort (n = 177) in Argentinean Andes, where drinking water concentrations of boron, lithium and arsenic have been found to vary considerably, we collected maternal blood and urine during and after pregnancy, placenta, breast milk, as well as infant urine and blood during the first 6 months of life. In all samples, boron and other potentially toxic elements were measured by ICP-MS. Infant weight (g), length (cm) and head circumference (cm) were measured at birth, 0-3 (n = 120) and/or 3-6 months (n = 120; 79 overlap) of age.

Results: Boron concentrations in breast milk (range: 46-786 µg/L) correlated strongly with those in maternal serum (range: 47-624 µg/L; rs = 0.94) 0-3 months post-partum. In multivariable-adjusted linear regression, urinary boron (log2-transformed; range 60-9200 µg/L) in the youngest infants, but not maternal serum boron during pregnancy, was inversely associated with body weight at both 0-3 months (B: -141, 95% CI: -240; -42, p = 0.006) and 3-6 months (B: -200, 95% CI: -377; -23, p = 0.027). Infant urinary boron was also inversely associated with head circumference at 0-3 months (B: -0.39, 95% CI: -0.74; -0.04, p = 0.028), as well as length (B: -0.57, 95% CI: -1.1; -0.03, p = 0.040) and head circumference (B: -0.30, 95% CI: -0.64; 0.04, p = 0.083) at 3-6 months.

Conclusions: The observed first evidence that elevated environmental boron exposure in early infancy may adversely affect growth supports previous findings of boron-related impaired fetal growth. More research is needed to verify the findings at older age and in other populations.

Keywords: Blood; Boron exposure; Breast milk; Drinking water; Infant anthropometry; Urine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Argentina
  • Boron / metabolism*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Mothers
  • Pregnancy


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Boron