Main content area

Association of maternal chronic arsenic exposure with the risk of neural tube defects in Northern China

Wang, Bin, Zhu, Yibing, Yan, Lailai, Zhang, Jingxu, Wang, Xilong, Cheng, Hefa, Li, Zhiwen, Ye, Rongwei, Ren, Aiguo
Environment international 2019 v.126 pp. 222-227
animals, arsenic, case-control studies, conception, confidence interval, dose response, health services, hospitals, mothers, odds ratio, risk factors, spina bifida, China
Numerous animal studies have shown that high arsenic exposure can induce neural tube defect (NTD) formation. However, epidemiological evidence related to this finding is scarce. The key objective of our study is to evaluate whether maternal arsenic exposure is associated with NTD risk in Northern China. Our case–control study was conducted in 11 countries or cities in Shanxi and Hebei provinces during 2003–2007. A total of 774 mothers were included as participants: 511 controls and 263 cases (including 123 with anencephaly, 115 with spina bifida, 18 with encephalocele, and 7 with other NTD subtypes). The arsenic concentration was measured in a specific section of hair that grew from 3 months before to 3 months after conception. We found a higher hair arsenic concentration in the NTD cases with median (inter-quartile range) of 0.093 (0.025–0.387) μg/g hair than that in the controls with a value of 0.082 (0.030–0.414) μg/g hair. Maternal hair arsenic concentration above its median of the controls was associated with an increased risk of the total NTDs with an adjusted odds ratio (OR) of 1.32 [95% confidence interval (CI): (0.91–1.92)], which was not statistically significant (p = 0.14), although the crude OR without adjusting for the confounders of 1.68 (95% CI: 1.24–2.27; p < 0.001) suggested that hair arsenic is a risk factor of NTDs. There was no dose-response relationship between maternal hair arsenic concentration and the risk of total NTDs. Similar phenomena were found for anencephaly and spina bifida, respectively. Overall, our findings showed that maternal periconceptional arsenic exposure may not significantly contribute to the risk of NTD development in Northern China; other risk factors need to be further examined in future studies.