Prenatal Metal Mixtures and Birth Weight for Gestational Age in a Predominately Lower-Income Hispanic Pregnancy Cohort in Los Angeles

Environ Health Perspect. 2020 Nov;128(11):117001. doi: 10.1289/EHP7201. Epub 2020 Nov 3.


Background: Reduced fetal growth increases the risk for adverse health outcomes. Growing evidence suggests that metal exposures contribute to reduced fetal growth, but little is known about the effects of complex metal mixtures.

Objectives: We investigated the impact of a complex mixture of metals on birth weight for gestational age (BW for GA) in the Maternal and Developmental Risks from Environmental and Social Stressors study, a predominately lower-income Hispanic pregnancy cohort in Los Angeles, California.

Methods: Cadmium (Cd), cobalt (Co), mercury (Hg), nickel (Ni), molybdenum (Mo), lead (Pb), antimony (Sb), tin (Sn), and thallium (Tl) were measured by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) in maternal urine samples collected in early pregnancy (median GA: 13.1 wk). Speciated urinary arsenic (As) (inorganic+monomethyl+dimethyl As) was measured by high-performance liquid chromatography coupled to ICP-MS. Primary analyses focused on a mixture of seven metals that have previously been associated individually with fetal growth (i.e., As, Cd, Co, Hg, Ni, Pb, Tl) (n=262). In exploratory analyses, we additionally examined three metals that have been less studied in relation to fetal growth (i.e., Mo, Sb, Sn). Covariate-adjusted Bayesian kernel machine regression was used to investigate metal mixture associations with BW for GA z-scores.

Results: In primary analyses, Hg and Ni ranked highest as predictors of BW for GA. An inverse linear association was estimated for Hg, whereas a positive association was estimated for Ni at low-to-moderate concentrations. A potential interaction between Hg and Ni was also identified. In our exploratory analysis, Sb ranked highest as a predictor of BW for GA, followed by Hg and Ni.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that in this understudied population, Hg may reduce fetal growth, whereas Ni may promote fetal growth. We also identified Sb as a potential metal of concern for this population, which merits additional investigation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Birth Weight*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Los Angeles
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Metals / blood*
  • Pregnancy


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Metals