Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Blood Pressure Changes in Relation to Arsenic Exposure in a U.S. Pregnancy Cohort

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Blood Pressure Changes in Relation to Arsenic Exposure in a U.S. Pregnancy Cohort

Article excerpt


Millions of individuals are chronically exposed to inorganic arsenic via contaminated water sources and through diet (National Research Council 2014; Navas-Acien and Nachman 2013). In the United States, an estimated 17 million people have been exposed to drinking water sources containing arsenic levels exceeding the maximum contaminant limit of 10 [micro]g/L [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2000]. Common dietary staples, such as rice and poultry, have been found to contain elevated levels of arsenic that also contribute to an individual's overall exposure (Cottingham et al. 2013; Davis et al. 2012; Gilbert-Diamond et al. 2011; Nachman et al. 2013; Navas-Acien and Nachman 2013). Arsenic exposure has been associated with adverse health effects, including cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (National Research Council 2014).

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide (World Health Organization 2008), and associations between arsenic and the risk of cardiovascular events have been well documented in highly exposed populations (Chen et al. 2011; Moon et al. 2012, 2013; States et al. 2009). Recent prospective work in the United States observed a relation between low-level arsenic exposure and risk of cardiovascular disease (Moon et al. 2012, 2013). Indeed, a growing body of evidence suggests that arsenic may increase risks of some risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, including high blood pressure (BP), atherosclerosis, and endothelial dysfunction (Chen et al. 2007a, 2007b, 2013; Hsieh et al. 2011; Wang et al. 2007; Wu et al. 2012). However, available evidence on cardiovascular disease risk factors is based on cross-sectional studies, and prospective studies that characterize the magnitudes of longitudinal changes in risk factors related to arsenic exposure are lacking. Moreover, certain populations, such as pregnant women, may be especially susceptible to these adverse effects, but little is known about the cardiovascular effects of arsenic exposure during this time period.

Pregnancy profoundly alters both maternal anatomy and physiology to support fetal development (Cunningham et al. 2010). Pregnancy-induced hemodynamic adaptations and hormonal changes lead to normal fluctuations in gestational BP (Cunningham et al. 2010). However, these changes can act as cardiovascular and metabolic stressors (Yoder et al. 2009), creating a "susceptible window" of risk for development of hypertension from putative triggers, including environmental exposures such as lead and air pollutants (Jedrychowski et al. 2012; Lee et al. 2012; van den Hooven et al. 2011; Yazbeck et al. 2009). Further, high BP during pregnancy can signal a greater risk of later-life maternal cardiovascular disease (Henriques et al. 2014; Irgens et al. 2001; Magnussen et al. 2009; Nisell et al. 1995; Skjaerven et al. 2012; Wilson et al. 2003) and also enhances risk of adverse birth outcomes such as premature labor, placental abruption, and restricted placental blood flow to the fetus, which is related to low birth weight (Allen et al. 2004; Roberts et al. 2005).

In New Hampshire, about 40% of households rely on unregulated private water systems, of which 10-15% contain arsenic levels exceeding the maximum contaminant level (Karagas et al. 2002). As part of the New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study, we sought to investigate whether higher maternal arsenic exposure during pregnancy is related to increases in maternal BP, an early cardiovascular disease risk factor and a complicating factor in pregnancy.


The New Hampshire Birth Cohort. In January 2009, we began recruiting 18- to 45-year-old pregnant women receiving prenatal care at study clinics, as previously described (Gilbert-Diamond et al. 2011). Women were enrolled at 24-28 weeks gestation if they reported using water from a private well at their residence since their last menstrual period and were not planning to move prior to delivery. …

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