Prenatal exposure to mixtures of persistent environmental chemicals and fetal growth outcomes in Western Australia
International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
School of Medical and Health Sciences / School of Science
Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship
National Health and Medical Research Council
Australian Research Council
NHMRC Number : APP1142222, APP1102590, APP1117784, ARC Number : LP0883936
Environmental chemicals have been implicated in the etiology of impaired fetal growth. However, few studies have assessed the effects of chemical mixtures or considered the possibility of non-monotonic exposure–response relationships for chemicals that act through the endocrine system.
We assessed exposure to polybrominated diphenyl ethers, organochlorine pesticides, metals, and perfluorinated alkyl substances in blood and urine samples collected approximately two weeks prior to delivery in 166 non-smoking pregnant women, and subsequent birth weight, length, and head circumference of neonates who were part of the Australian Maternal Exposures to Toxic Substances (AMETS) study. We used Bayesian structured additive regression models with spike–slab priors to estimate mixture effects, identify important exposures, and model non-linearity in exposure–response relationships.
Mixtures of polybrominated diphenyl ethers, organochlorine pesticides, metals, and perfluorinated alkyl substances were not associated with fetal growth outcomes. Estimated change in fetal growth outcomes for an increase in exposure from the 25th to 75th percentile suggested no meaningful associations; the strongest evidence was for a small inverse association between birth weight and cesium exposure measured in whole blood (−124 g, 90% credible interval: –240 to −3 g). We identified several chemicals that may be associated with fetal growth non-linearly; however, 90% credible intervals contained small values consistent with no meaningful association.
Using a Bayesian penalized regression method, we assessed the shapes of exposure–response relationships, controlled for confounding by co-exposure, and estimated the single and combined effects of a large mixture of correlated environmental chemicals on fetal growth. Our findings, based on a small sample of mother-neonate pairs, suggest that mixtures of persistent chemicals are not associated with birth weight, length, and head circumference. The potential for non-monotonic relationships between environmental chemicals and fetal growth outcomes warrants further study.