Time-varying associations between prenatal metal mixtures and rapid visual processing in children

Yuri Levin-Schwartz, Chris Gennings, Lourdes Schnaas, María Del Carmen Hernández Chávez, David C. Bellinger, Martha Maria Téllez-Rojo, Andrea A. Baccarelli, Robert O. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Humans are exposed to mixtures of chemicals across their lifetimes, a concept sometimes called the "exposome." Mixtures likely have temporal "critical windows" of susceptibility like single agents and measuring them repeatedly might help to define such windows. Common approaches to evaluate the effects of chemical mixtures have focused on their effects at a single time point. Our goal is to expand upon these previous techniques and examine the time-varying critical windows for metal mixtures on subsequent neurobehavior in children. METHODS: We propose two methods, joint weighted quantile sum regression (JWQS) and meta-weighted quantile sum regression (MWQS), to estimate the effects of chemical mixtures measured across multiple time points, while providing data on their critical windows of exposure. We compare the performance of both methods using simulations. We also applied both techniques to assess second and third trimester metal mixture effects in predicting performance in the Rapid Visual Processing (RVP) task from the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB) assessed at 6-9 years in children who are part of the PROGRESS (Programming Research in Obesity, GRowth, Environment and Social Stressors) longitudinal cohort study. The metals, arsenic, cadmium (Cd), cesium, chromium, lead (Pb) and antimony (Sb) were selected based on their toxicological profile. RESULTS: In simulations, JWQS and MWQS had over 80% accuracy in classifying exposures as either strongly or weakly contributing to an association. In real data, both JWQS and MWQS consistently found that Pb and Cd exposure jointly predicted longer latency in the RVP and that second trimester exposure better predicted the results than the third trimester. Additionally, both JWQS and MWQS highlighted the strong association Cd and Sb had with lower accuracy in the RVP and that third trimester exposure was a better predictor than second trimester exposure. CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that metal mixtures effects vary across time, have distinct critical windows and that both JWQS and MWQS can determine longitudinal mixture effects including the cumulative contribution of each exposure and critical windows of effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92
Number of pages1
JournalEnvironmental Health: A Global Access Science Source
Issue number1
StatePublished - 30 Oct 2019


  • Childhood
  • Heavy metals
  • Mixtures
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Novel method


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