Infant toenails reveal in utero exposure to low-level arsenic, study finds

July 7, 2014

Infant toenails are a reliable way to estimate arsenic exposure before birth, a Dartmouth College study shows.

The findings appear in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology.

A growing body of evidence suggests that in utero and early-life exposure to may have detrimental effects on children, even at the low to moderate levels common in the United States and elsewhere. The fetus starts to develop toenails during the first trimester, making them an accurate measure of exposure to arsenic during the entire gestation. Prior studies that used infant toenails as a biomarker of in utero exposure were conducted in highly exposed populations.

But in a sample of 170 mother–infant pairs from New Hampshire, the researchers determined infant exposure to relatively low arsenic in utero by evaluating infant toenails as a biomarker using plasma mass spectrometry.

The results show that a doubling of maternal postpartum toenail arsenic concentration was associated with a 54 percent increase in infant toenail arsenic concentration as compared with 20 percent for a doubling of maternal urine arsenic concentration. Also, a doubling of maternal toenail and urine arsenic concentrations was associated with a 68 percent increase in infant toenail arsenic concentration. A similar correlation between infant and maternal postpartum toenail concentrations was observed in a group of 130 mother–infant pairs from Rhode Island.

"In utero to arsenic occurs through maternal drinking water and dietary sources, and infant toenails appear to be a reliable biomarker for estimating during the critical window of gestation," says senior author Professor Margaret Karagas.

Related Stories

What you eat can prevent arsenic overload

June 28, 2012

Millions of people worldwide are exposed to arsenic from contaminated water, and we are all exposed to arsenic via the food we eat. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Nutrition Journal has demonstrated ...

Nine tips for keeping your toenails healthy this summer

June 5, 2014

People want their toenails to look great in the summer. But many people allow their toenails to grow too long, which can cause discoloration, blisters and other problems, according to Loyola University Medical Center podiatrist ...

Recommended for you

New weapon in the fight against malnutrition

August 4, 2015

UBC scientists have opened the doors to new research into malnutrition by creating an animal model that replicates the imbalance of gut bacteria associated with the difficult-to-treat disease.

Can four fish oil pills a day keep the doctor away?

July 7, 2015

Fish oil is one of the most popular dietary supplements in the U.S. because of the perceived cardiovascular benefits of the omega-3 it contains. However, scientific findings on its effectiveness have been conflicting. New ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.