Partition of environmental chemicals between maternal and fetal blood and tissues

Larry L. Needham, Philippe Grandjean, Birger Heinzow, Poul J. Jørgensen, Flemming Nielsen, Donald G. Patterson Jr., Andreas Sjödin, Wayman E. Turner, Pal Weihe

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    311 Citations (Scopus)


    Passage of environmental chemicals across the placenta hasimportant toxicological consequences, as well as for choosing samples for analysis and for interpreting the results. To obtain systematic data, we collected in 2000 maternal and cord blood, cord tissue, placenta, and milk in connection with births in the Faroe Islands, where exposures to marine contaminants is increased. In 15 sample sets, we measured a total of 87 environmental chemicals, almost all of which were detected both in maternal and fetal tissues. The maternal serumlipid-based concentrations of organohalogencompounds averaged 1.7 times those of cord serum, 2.8 times those of cord tissue and placenta, and 0.7 those of milk. For organohalogen compounds detectable in all matrices, a high degree of correlation between concentrations in maternal serum and the other tissues investigated was generally observed (r2 > 0.5). Greater degree of chlorination resulted in lower transfer from maternal serum into milk. Concentrations of pentachlorbenzene, γ-hexachlorocyclohexane, and several polychlorinated biphenyl congeners with low chlorination were higher in fetal samples and showed poor correlation with maternal levels. Perfluorinated compounds occurred in lower concentrations in cord serum than in maternal serum. Cadmium, lead, mercury, and selenium were all detected in fetal samples, but only mercuryshowedclose correlationsamongconcentrations in different matrices. Although the environmental chemicals examined pass through the placenta and are excreted into milk, partitions between maternal and fetal samples are not uniform.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1121-1126
    Number of pages6
    JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


    • environmental chemicals
    • pregnancy
    • fetal tissue
    • fetus
    • Embryonic and Fetal Development
    • maternal tissue
    • chemicals


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