Racial/ethnic and neighborhood disparities in metals exposure during pregnancy in the Northeastern United States

Mariel Geron, Whitney Cowell, Chitra Amarasiriwardena, Syam S. Andra, Kecia Carroll, Itai Kloog, Robert O. Wright, Rosalind J. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Despite the unequal burden of environmental exposures borne by racially minoritized communities, these groups are often underrepresented in public health research. Here, we examined racial/ethnic disparities in exposure to metals among a multi-ethnic sample of pregnant women. The sample included women enrolled in the PRogramming of Intergenerational Stress Mechanisms (PRISM) pregnancy cohort (N = 382). Urinary metal concentrations (arsenic [As], barium [Ba], cadmium [Cd], cesium [Cs], chromium [Cr], lead [Pb], antimony [Sb]) were measured during mid-pregnancy and information on individual- and neighborhood-level characteristics was ascertained during an in-person interview and from publicly available databases, respectively. Linear regression was used to examine individual and neighborhood characteristics in relation to metal concentrations. Black/Black-Hispanic women had Cd, Cr, Pb, and Sb levels that were 142.0%, 10.9%, 35.0%, and 32.1% higher than White, non-Hispanic women, respectively. Likewise, White-Hispanic women had corresponding levels that were 141.5%, 108.2%, 59.9%, and 38.3% higher. These same metals were also higher among women residing in areas with higher crime, higher diversity, lower educational attainment, lower household income, and higher poverty. Significant disparities in exposure to metals exist and may be driven by neighborhood-level factors. Exposure to metals for pregnant women can be especially harmful. Understanding exposure inequalities and identifying factors that increase risk can help inform targeted public health interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number153249
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 10 May 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Disparities
  • Environmental justice
  • Exposure
  • Metals
  • Pregnancy
  • Race/ethnicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry


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