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A Study of Maternal and Umbilical Cord Blood Lead Levels in Pregnant Women.

Lead is a highly toxic element which can cross the placental barrier and enter the fetus during pregnancy. Parental lead exposure has adverse effect on infant as well as on maternal health. As part of our program to investigate the lead poisoning in human population we investigated the maternal blood lead levels (MBLL) and umbilical cord blood lead (UBLL) levels in 200 pregnant women and collected their socio-demographic details. In the study we found high lead levels in both maternal and umbilical cord blood samples. The results showed 47.5% maternal blood ( n  = 95) detected with lead while 38.5% umbilical cord blood ( n  = 77) samples had lead concentration higher than that of reference range of ≤ 5 µg/dL. We also found that the Spearman's correlation coefficient (rs) revealed a strong positive correlation between the MBLL and UBLL (rs = 0.63). The results from socio-demographic questionnaire demonstrated that the recent home painting ( p  = 0.002) and residing close proximity to traffic congestion ( p  = 0.05) were significantly associated with MBLL. Education, mother age, fuel and water sources were not significantly associated with MBLL. Iron and calcium deficiency along with tiredness, lethargy, abdominal pain were also reported in women having high lead level > 5 µg/dL. Concludingly, on the basis of results obtained it may be stated that we found elevated BLLs in both pregnant women as well as in umbilical cord blood. The prevalence of elevated lead levels in mothers will expose the fetus to lead through placental barriers mobilization and it can have long term adverse effects on the developing fetus. Therefore, it is recommended that screening of blood lead levels be carried out in high-risk women based on their social, occupational, environmental, and individual factors. In addition, stringent regulations on lead-based products are also required from government agencies/authorities to reduce environmental lead burden and toxicity. Moreover, public awareness programs should be organized on hazardous effect of lead.

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