Environmental lead exposure, maternal thyroid function, and childhood growth

Prenatal and early-life exposure to lead is hypothesized to have a range of adverse effects on childhood health. Drawing on data collected from a population-based prospective cohort study of a highly exposed town and a low exposed town in Kosovo, Yugoslavia we assessed whether elevated maternal blood lead (BPb) concentrations during pregnancy were associated with reduced childhood measures of attained height and BMI or growth rate, and whether the associations, if any, were mediated by maternal thyroid hormone concentration at mid-pregnancy. There was no association between blood lead levels and height or BMI in either town. However, increased maternal thyroid hormone was unexpectedly associated with reduced attained childhood height, and growth rate of height from 6.5 to 10 years, in the low-exposure town. We examine potential reasons for this unexpected inverse association.