Extra Protection for Pregnant Women: Calcium Supplement Reduces Blood Lead

By Potera, Carol | Environmental Health Perspectives, January 2009 | Go to article overview

Extra Protection for Pregnant Women: Calcium Supplement Reduces Blood Lead


Potera, Carol, Environmental Health Perspectives


Lead, like calcium, is stored in bones and generally does not circulate throughout the body. But the demands of pergnancy and lactation trigger the release of calcium, which also releases lead into the maternal blood stream. Researchers previously showed that daily calcium supplementation during loctation reduced maternal blood lead by 15-20% and lead in breast milk by 5-10%. A new study by the same team shoes that taking inexpensive calcium supplements daily also reduces blood lead levels during pregnancy [EHP 117:26-31; Ettinger et al.]. Such supplementation could help mitigate the adverse effects of prenatal lead exposure, which include low birth weight, lower intelligence scores, and impaired motor and visual skills.

The study included 557 women recruited in the first trimester of pregnancy from prenatal clinics in Mexico City. The women were recruited from 2001 to 2003; Mexico completed the phase-out of leaded gasoline on 1997, so women enrolled in the study had been exposed for many years to high environmental lead levels prior to becoming pregnant. In addition, just over one-third of the women used the traditional lead-glazed pottery that is common in Mexico. Half the women received 1,200 mg of calcium daily and the others received placebos. …

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