Arsenic and birth outcomes in a predominately lower income Hispanic pregnancy cohort in Los Angeles

Environ Res. 2020 May;184:109294. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2020.109294. Epub 2020 Feb 27.


Prenatal arsenic exposure has been associated with reduced fetal growth and increased risk for preterm birth, but most studies have been conducted in highly exposed populations outside the U.S. or in non-Hispanic populations in the rural U.S. The objectives of the current study were to: 1) examine the impact of early pregnancy exposure to arsenic on birth weight and gestational age at birth in a predominately lower income Hispanic pregnancy cohort in urban Los Angeles and 2) compare multiple biomarkers of arsenic exposure (blood, urine, and hair) assessed in early pregnancy (mean ± SD gestational age at biospecimen collection: 14 ± 4 weeks). Total arsenic (blood, hair) was measured by ICP-MS and speciated arsenic (urine) was measured by HPLC coupled to ICP-MS. Associations between log2-transformed arsenic measures and birth outcomes were evaluated using multivariable linear regression. A doubling in hair arsenic was associated with a 72.2 g (95% CI: -144.3, -0.1, P = 0.05) lower birth weight, after adjusting for potential confounders and gestational age at birth. A similar but non-significant trend was observed for blood arsenic, but not urine arsenic. The inverse association between hair arsenic and birth weight was more pronounced among infants whose mothers gained greater amounts of weight during pregnancy (Pinteraction = 0.02). The association between urinary monomethyl arsenic and GA at birth differed by pre-pregnancy BMI (Pinteraction<0.01). This study provides evidence that even at relatively low levels of exposure, arsenic exposure (measured in hair samples collected in early pregnancy) may adversely affect fetal growth in this understudied population, particularly in combination with greater gestational weight gain. Future studies with larger sample sizes are needed to confirm these findings and to further investigate some of the inconsistencies observed for the different arsenic biomarkers evaluated.

Keywords: Arsenic; Birth outcomes; Gestational weight gain; Hispanic; Low-income; Urban.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arsenic* / analysis
  • Arsenic* / toxicity
  • Birth Weight
  • Cesarean Section
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Los Angeles / epidemiology
  • Maternal Exposure* / adverse effects
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth* / chemically induced
  • Premature Birth* / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Arsenic