Exposure to heavy metals in the environment is a pressing environmental health threat, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Metal exposure during pregnancy has been associated with certain adverse birth outcomes, yet the link between metals and stillbirth risk remains unclear. Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of stillbirths globally, as well as widespread and persistent environmental metal pollution. The multiple potential exposure routes for these metals, ranging from drinking water to food adulteration, complicate efforts to mitigate risks to maternal health. This project aims to identify the sources of metal exposure among pregnant women in Faridpur, Bangladesh, and the potential role of this exposure in contributing to the elevated rate of stillbirth. To do this, the researchers will leverage the framework of an ongoing child health and mortality prevention surveillance study to compare placental biomarkers of metal exposure among stillbirths and live births. The team will evaluate concentrations of various metals in drinking water, soil, rice, and turmeric to identify the likely routes of exposure to metals during pregnancy. This research will inform interventions to reduce women’s exposure to metals during pregnancy and may identify pathways connecting environmental metals to stillbirth, generating policy-relevant data for improving health outcomes.
Steve Luby (Medicine)
Gary Shaw (Pediatrics)
Scott Fendorf (Environmental Earth System Science)