Maternal nickel exposure and congenital musculoskeletal defects Academic Article uri icon

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  • OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether women occupationally exposed to nickel in early pregnancy are at elevated risk of delivering a newborn with a malformation or deformation of the musculoskeletal system (ICD-10: Q65-Q79). METHODS: Data about the newborn, maternal occupation and workplace were obtained using the Kola Birth Register (KBR). Each record in the KBR was assigned a categorical nickel (Ni) exposure rating according to the occupation the delivering woman had at the time of becoming pregnant. This was achieved by using as a guideline the water-soluble Ni subfraction of the inhalable aerosol fraction obtained by personal monitoring for nickel- and copper-refinery workers or/and measured urinary-Ni concentrations. The reference population was delivering women from the source population with background exposure level. In total, the study population consisted of 22,965 births. RESULTS: Three hundred and four infants (13.3/1,000 births; 95% confidence interval (CI): 11.9-14.7) were diagnosed with isolated musculoskeletal defect(s) at birth. The adjusted odds ratio for the association between the maternal exposure to Ni and this outcome was 0.96 (95% CI: 0.76-1.21) per unit increase in exposure category. CONCLUSION: The incidence of defects in the musculoskeletal system at birth was high, especially for feet deformities, but we found no effect of maternal exposure to water-soluble Ni on the risk of delivering a newborn with a defect. However, the incidence among women working in the copper refinery was higher than in the other employment groups.


  • Nieboer, Evert
  • Arild, Vaktskjold
  • Ljudmila Vasiljevna, Talykova
  • Valerij Petrovitsj, Chashchin
  • Jon Öyvind, Odland
  • Evert, Nieboer

publication date

  • November 2008