Meconium Analysis - A Promising Tool to Detect Fetal Exposure to Environmental Toxins

EPA Grant Number: R829395
Title: Meconium Analysis - A Promising Tool to Detect Fetal Exposure to Environmental Toxins
Investigators: Ostrea, Enrique M. , Ager, Joel , Bielawski, Dawn , Villanueva-Uy, Esterlita
Institution: Wayne State University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: April 1, 2002 through April 1, 2006
Project Amount: $726,411
RFA: Children's Vulnerability to Toxic Substances in the Environment (2001) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Human Health , Health , Children's Health , Health Effects


The exposure of pregnant women to environmental toxins is of major concern because of their potential harm to the fetus. However, the detection of fetal exposure to environmental toxins still remains a major challenge. We propose that meconium analysis is a promising tool to meet this challenge. Meconium is the first set of stools of a newborn infant. It is formed by, and accumulates in, the fetus from the 12th week of gestation until birth and is a repository of the xenobiotics that the fetus has been exposed to throughout this period. Hence, meconium provides a wide window of fetal exposure to xenobiotics and therefore, is an ideal matrix to analyze. We have pioneered the analysis of meconium to detect fetal exposure to a number of xenobiotics, which include illicit drugs, nicotine, alcohol, over the counter drugs and recently, environmental toxins. Meconium analysis offers many advantages which include the noninvasiveness of meconium collection, the high sensitivity and specificity of the test and a positive correlation between concentration of drugs in meconium and the amount of drugs used by the mother during gestation.

To develop meconium analysis as a sensitive, diagnostic tool to detect fetal exposure to environmental toxins (heavy metals and pesticides), this study aims to: (1) compare the prevalence and amount of fetal exposure to environmental toxins through the analysis of meconium, cord blood and neonatal hair and to determine the degree of agreement among these methods, (2) to determine the relationship between maternal exposure to environmental toxins during pregnancy, as determined by serial analyses of maternal hair and blood , and the positivity rate and concentrations of environmental toxins in meconium, cord blood and neonatal hair.


Pregnant women (n=750) will be recruited in midgestation from the Outpatient Prenatal Clinic of the Bulacan Provincial Hospital and their blood and hair will be obtained at the time of recruitment and at delivery. Cord blood, meconium and neonatal hair will also be obtained. The samples will be analyzed, by atomic absorption spectrometry for lead, mercury and cadmium and by GCMS for the following pesticides and their metabolites: propoxur, transfluthrin, malathion, DDT, chlorpyrifos, bioallethrin, pretilachlor, lindane, cyfluthrin and cypermethrin.

Expected Results:

We expect that the exposure rate will be high in the study population; that the incidence of a positive test and the concentrations of toxins will be higher in meconium compared to fetal blood or neonatal hair. Furthermore, we expect that there will be a positive correlation between the various substrates and the amount of environmental toxins in meconium and that the concentrations of toxins in meconium will provide the highest correlation with maternal levels (maternal blood or hair).

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 20 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 4 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Innovative technology, pesticides, heavy metals,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Health, PHYSICAL ASPECTS, Health Risk Assessment, Risk Assessments, Susceptibility/Sensitive Population/Genetic Susceptibility, Disease & Cumulative Effects, Physical Processes, Children's Health, genetic susceptability, Biology, pesticide exposure, diagnostic tool, fetal exposure, infants, detection, cord blood, pesticides, exposure, children, fetus, Human Health Risk Assessment, meconcium, human exposure, meconium analysis, environmental toxicant, detecting fecal matter, pregnant women, pregnancy, toxicants, exposure assessment, maternal exposure, heavy metals, neonatal hair

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2002 Progress Report
  • 2003 Progress Report
  • 2004 Progress Report
  • Final Report