Associations between prenatal and postnatal lead exposure and preschool children humoral and cellular immune responses

Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2021 Jan 1:207:111536. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2020.111536. Epub 2020 Nov 2.


Studies have shown that lead exposure affected the immune function, but few studies have examined the relationships between in utero lead exposure, a sensitive period that is important for immune development, and later immune responses. To investigate the effects of prenatal and childhood lead exposure on the preschool-aged children's immune responses, a prospective birth cohort study was established in Wuhan, China, in which lead concentrations were analyzed in maternal urine during the third trimester and in plasma samples from children aged about 3 years. We assessed immune responses by measuring immune cytokines in the children's plasma (n = 326) and peripheral blood T lymphocyte subsets (n = 394) at 3 years of age. Each unit increase in maternal urinary lead concentration (μg/g creatinine) was associated with reduced IL-10 (β = -5.93%, 95%CI: -11.82%, -0.03%) and reduced IL-4 levels (β = -5.62%, 95%CI: -10.44%, -0.80%). Lead in children's plasma (μg/L) was associated with significant increase in TNF-α (β = 10.78%, 95%CI: 3.97%, 17.59%). No statistically significant relationship of childhood lead exposure with T lymphocyte subsets was observed. The study suggested prenatal and childhood lead exposure was associated with changes in preschool children's plasma cytokine levels.

Keywords: Children; Cytokines; Immune responses; Lead exposure; T lymphocyte subsets.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • China / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cytokines / blood
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / drug effects*
  • Immunity, Humoral
  • Lead / toxicity*
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / epidemiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Vitamins


  • Cytokines
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Vitamins
  • Lead