Very low maternal lead level in pregnancy and birth outcomes in an eastern Massachusetts population

Meghan Perkins, Robert O. Wright, Chitra J. Amarasiriwardena, Innocent Jayawardene, Sheryl L. Rifas-Shiman, Emily Oken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Purpose: Maternal lead exposure is associated with poor birth outcomes in populations with moderate to high blood levels. However, no studies have looked at exposure levels commonly experienced by US women. Methods: We evaluated the relationship between maternal red blood cell (RBC) lead levels in midpregnancy and birth outcomes in 949 mother-child pairs in a prebirth cohort. We used multiple linear regression and logistic regression, adjusted for potential confounders including maternal age, race, prepregnancy body mass index, and smoking to relate maternal lead to infant birth size and risk for preterm birth (<37weeks). Results: Mean RBC lead level was 1.2μg/dL (range, 0.0-5.0). Mean (standard deviation) birthweight was 3505 (520) g, birthweight for gestational age z-score 0.22 (0.93), and length of gestation 39.5 (1.7) weeks. Mothers in the highest versus lowest lead quartile did not have higher odds (OR, 1.85; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.79-4.34) of preterm delivery; after stratifying by child sex, there was an association among males (OR, 5.51; 95% CI, 1.21-25.15) but not females (OR, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.24-2.85). Maternal RBC lead was not associated with any continuous outcomes in combined or sex-stratified analyses. Conclusions: Maternal lead exposure, even at very low levels, may adversely affect some childbirth outcomes, particularly preterm birth among males.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)915-919
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of Epidemiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2014


  • Birthweight
  • Lead
  • Pregnancy
  • Preterm birth


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