Maternal Exposure to Metals-Concentrations and Predictors of Exposure

Document Type

Journal Article




Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science


School of Natural Sciences / Centre for Ecosystem Management




Callan, A. C., Hinwood, A. , Ramalingam, M. , Boyce, M. C., Heyworth, J., McCafferty, P., & Odland, J. (2013). Maternal Exposure to Metals – Concentrations and Predictors of Exposure. Environmental Research, 126, 111-117. Availablehere


A variety of metals are important for biological function but have also been shown to impact health at elevated concentrations, whereas others have no known biological function. Pregnant women are a vulnerable population and measures to reduce exposure in this group are important. We undertook a study of maternal exposure to the metals, aluminium, arsenic, copper, cobalt, chromium, lithium, manganese, nickel, selenium, tin, uranium and zinc in 173 participants across Western Australia. Each participant provided a whole blood and urine sample, as well as drinking water, residential soil and dust samples and completed a questionnaire. In general the concentrations of metals in all samples were low with the notable exception of uranium (blood U mean 0.07 μg/L, range <0.01-0.25 μg/L; urinary U mean 0.018 μg/g creatinine, range <0.01-0.199 μg/g creatinine). Factors that influenced biological concentrations were consumption of fish which increased urinary arsenic concentrations, hobbies (including mechanics and welding) which increased blood manganese concentrations and iron/folic acid supplement use which was associated with decreased concentrations of aluminium and nickel in urine and manganese in blood. Environmental concentrations of aluminium, copper and lithium were found to influence biological concentrations, but this was not the case for other environmental metals concentrations. Further work is underway to explore the influence of diet on biological metals concentrations in more detail. The high concentrations of uranium require further investigation.