To explore associations between maternal pre-pregnancy exposure to arsenic in diet and non-cardiac birth defects.
Population-based, case-control study using maternal responses to a dietary assessment and published arsenic concentration estimates in food items to calculate average daily total and inorganic arsenic exposure during the year before pregnancy. Assigning tertiles of total and inorganic arsenic exposure, logistic regression analysis was used to estimate odds ratios for middle and high tertiles, compared to the low tertile.
US National Birth Defects Prevention Study, 1997-2011.
Mothers of 10,446 children without birth defects and 14,408 children diagnosed with a non-cardiac birth defect.
Maternal exposure to total dietary arsenic in the middle and high tertiles was associated with a threefold increase in cloacal exstrophy, with weak positive associations (1.2-1.5) observed either in both tertiles (intercalary limb deficiency) or the high tertile only (encephalocele, glaucoma/anterior chamber defects, bladder exstrophy). Maternal exposure to inorganic arsenic showed mostly weak, positive associations in both tertiles (colonic atresia/stenosis, esophageal atresia, bilateral renal agenesis/hypoplasia, hypospadias, cloacal exstrophy, gastroschisis), or the high (glaucoma/anterior chamber defects, choanal atresia, intestinal atresia stenosis) or middle (encephalocele, intercalary limb deficiency, transverse limb deficiency) tertiles only. The remaining associations estimated were near the null or inverse.
This exploration of arsenic in diet and non-cardiac birth defects produced several positive, but mostly weak associations. Limitations in exposure assessment may have resulted in exposure misclassification. Continued research with improved exposure assessment is recommended to identify if these associations are true signals or chance findings.