The Effects of Heavy Metal Exposures During Pregnancy on Maternal and Infant Health

EPA Grant Number: F6D30988
Title: The Effects of Heavy Metal Exposures During Pregnancy on Maternal and Infant Health
Investigators: Wells, Ellen M.
Institution: The Johns Hopkins University
EPA Project Officer: Zambrana, Jose
Project Period: September 1, 2006 through May 31, 2009
Project Amount: $111,172
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Public Health , Health Effects


The goal of this research is to further scientific understanding of prenatal exposure to lead (Pb) and mercury (Hg) among newborns in Baltimore, MD. This project will explore the association of these exposures with growth, development, nutrient status, and cardiovascular risks. This project will focus on the intersection of environmental problems related to metals as well as the particular susceptibility that children may have to these environmental contaminants. Ultimately, the goal of this research is to inform regulatory risk assessment and risk management processes. Specific aims of this project include investigating associations between these metals and indicators of infant growth and development at birth, including neurological development; exploring associations of these metals with C-reactive protein, an inflammatory cytokine, as a potential marker of cardiovascular health; and determination of whether these associations are modified by the presence of nutrients such as iron or selenium.


This project is a component of the Baltimore THREE Study (Tracking Health Responses to Environmental Exposures), a cross-sectional study including approximately 300 singleton live births during 2004-5 at the Johns Hopkins Hospital (JHH) in Baltimore, Maryland. Umbilical cord blood was collected at birth and analyzed for lead, mercury and other relevant compounds. Additional data was collected through both maternal and infant medical record review. The THREE Study has been approved by the Johns Hopkins Hospital Institutional Review Board. More information on this study can be found at Exit .

Expected Results:

One goal of this project is to describe body burdens of lead and mercury at a susceptible lifestage, that of the developing fetus. Additionally, results from this research will contribute to scientific knowledge of how these body burdens translate into health outcomes. Results from this project will help inform both exposure assessment and dose-response assessment stages of risk assessment, key steps in formulating environmental policy.

Supplemental Keywords:

lead, mercury, heavy metals, fetus, pregnancy, growth and development, neurodevelopment, cardiovascular health, children’s environmental health, C-reactive protein, nutrients, umbilical cord blood, body burden, exposure, prenatal, susceptibility,, Health, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, POLLUTANTS/TOXICS, Health Risk Assessment, Chemicals, State, Risk Assessments, children's health, cognitive impairments, developmental neurotoxicology, mercury, prenatal exposure, developmental effects, lead, nutritional information, Maryland (MD), heavy metals, human health risk

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2007
  • 2008
  • Final