Researchers have found a connection between lead exposure and hypertension in pregnancy. Even tiny amounts of lead can cause a significant increase in pregnancy blood pressure.
Researchers have found a connection between lead exposure and hypertension in pregnancy. Even tiny amounts of lead can cause a significant increase in pregnancy blood pressure. Blood pressure is already higher during pregnancy due to increased blood volume. Infants born to mothers exposed to lead may be more sensitive to lead.
The study involved 285 women and was performed at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Johns Hopkins is located in Baltimore, Maryland. About 25-percent of women in the study tested positive for lead in umbilical cord blood. These women tested an increase of about 7 mmHg systolic and 4.5 mmHg diastolic. Other factors that could raise blood pressure during pregnancy like ethnicity and diabetes were taken into consideration.
Researchers were surprised to find that even the smallest amount of lead in umbilical cord blood resulted in a significant increase in blood pressure. High blood pressure during pregnancy, often referred to as pregnancy-induced hypertension, can lead to premature birth, preeclampsia and death.
The intention of the study is to set safety guidelines for lead exposure for adults and pregnant women. Authors note employers can help prevent pregnancy lead exposure by reducing lead in the workplace. Currently, occupational guidelines allow exposure to up to 40 um/dL of lead. Changes in pregnancy blood pressure started with exposure as low as 2 um/dL.
Source: Report from George Washington University Medical Center. 3 February, 2011.