Determinants of Arsenic Metabolism: Blood Arsenic Metabolites, Plasma Folate, Cobalamin, and Homocysteine Concentrations in Maternal-Newborn Pairs

Marni Hall, Mary Gamble, Vesna Slavkovich, Xinhua Liu, Diane Levy, Zhongqi Cheng, Alexander van Geen, Mahammad Yunus, Mahfuzar Rahman, J. Richard Pilsner, and Joseph Graziano

Background: In Bangladesh, tens of millions of people have been consuming waterborne arsenic for decades. The extent to which As is transported to the fetus during pregnancy has not been well characterized.

Objectives: We therefore conducted a study of 101 pregnant women who gave birth in Matlab, Bangladesh.

Methods: Maternal and cord blood pairs were collected and concentrations of total As were ana- lyzed for 101 pairs, and As metabolites for 30 pairs. Maternal urinary As metabolites and plasma folate, cobalamin, and homocysteine levels in maternal cord pairs were also measured. Household tube well–water As concentrations exceeded the World Health Organization guideline of 10 μg/L in 38% of the cases.

Results: We observed strong associations between maternal and cord blood concentrations of total As (r = 0.93, p < 0.0001). Maternal and cord blood arsenic metabolites (n = 30) were also strongly correlated: in dimethylarsinate (DMA) (r = 0.94, p < 0.0001), monomethylarsonate (r = 0.80, p < 0.0001), arsenite (As+3) (r = 0.80, p < 0.0001), and arsenate (As+5) (r = 0.89, p < 0.0001). Maternal homocysteine was a strong predictor of %DMA in maternal urine, maternal blood, and cord blood (β = –6.2, p < 0.02; β = –10.9, p < 0.04; and β = –13.7, p < 0.04, respec- tively). Maternal folate was inversely associated with maternal blood As5+ (β = 0.56, p < 0.05), and maternal cobalamin was inversely associated with cord blood As5+ (β = –1.2, p < 0.01).

Conclusions: We conclude that exposure to all metabolites of inorganic As occurs in the prenatal period.

Key Words: arsenic, B12, blood arsenic metabolites, DMA, folate, homocysteine, maternal, MMA, newborn. Environ Health Perspect 115:1503–1509 (2007). doi:10.1289/ehp.9906 available via [Online 28 June 2007]ß