Blood metal levels and early childhood anthropometric measures in a cohort of Canadian children
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Fetal exposure to some toxic metals has been associated with reduced fetal growth, but the impact of contemporary, low-level metals on anthropometric measures in childhood is not well understood. Our primary objective was to quantify associations between childhood levels of toxic metals and concurrently measured body mass index (BMI) in a population of Canadian preschool-aged children. We collected biomonitoring data and anthropometric measures on 480 children between the ages of two and five years in the Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals (MIREC) Child Development Plus study. Concentrations of four toxic metals (lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury) were measured in whole blood collected from pregnant women and their children. Blood levels of key essential elements were also measured in children. Children's weight, height, and BMI z-scores were calculated using the World Health Organization growth standards. We used a series of linear regression models, adjusted for potential parental confounders, concurrently measured metals and elements, and prenatal blood metal levels, to evaluate associations between tertiles of each toxic metal and anthropometric measures. We tested for effect modification by sex. Of the 480 children, 449 (94%) were singleton births and had complete biomonitoring and anthropometric data. The majority of children had detectable concentrations of metals. In the adjusted models, girls with blood lead concentrations in the highest tertile (>0.82 μg/dL) had, on average, 0.26 (95% Cl: -0.55, 0.03) lower BMI z-scores than those in the referent category. In contrast, boys with lead levels in the highest tertile had, on average, 0.14 higher BMI z-scores (95% Cl: -0.14, 0.41) (p-value heterogeneity = 0.04). In this population of Canadian preschool-aged children with low-level blood lead concentrations, we observed effect modification by sex in the association between Pb and BMI but no statistically significant associations in the sex-specific strata. Child blood levels of As, Cd, and Hg were not associated with childhood BMI, weight, or height in boys or girls.