Environ Int. 2019 Apr;125:445-451. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2019.02.021. Epub 2019 Feb 11.
BACKGROUND: Previous studies have examined the association between blood lead levels and pubertal timing in adolescent girls; however, the evidence is lacking on the role of lead exposure during sensitive developmental periods on sexual maturation.
OBJECTIVES: To examine the association of prenatal and early childhood lead exposure with pubertal stages among 264 boys and 283 girls aged 9.8-18.0 years in Mexico City.
METHODS: We measured maternal bone lead (a proxy for cumulative fetal exposure to lead from maternal bone stores mobilized during pregnancy) at 1 month postpartum. Blood lead was measured annually from 1 to 4 years. Pubertal stage was assessed by a pediatrician. We examined the association between lead and pubertal stages of breast, pubic hair and genitalia using ordinal regression. Age at menarche was evaluated using Cox proportional-hazard models.
RESULTS: Multivariate models showed that maternal patella lead and early childhood blood lead were inversely associated with breast growth (patella OR = 0.72, 95% CI: 0.51-1.00; blood OR = 0.70, 95% CI: 0.53-0.93) in girls. Girls with maternal patella lead in the 3rd tertile and child blood lead in the 2nd tertile had a later age at menarche compared with girls in the 1st tertile (patella HR = 0.60, 95% CI: 0.41-0.88; blood HR = 0.65, 95% CI 0.46-0.91). Additionally, early childhood blood lead was negatively associated with pubic hair growth (OR = 0.68, 95% CI: 0.51-0.90) in girls. No associations were found in boys.
CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that higher prenatal and early childhood exposure to lead may be associated with delayed pubertal development in girls but not boys. Our findings are consistent with previous analyses and reinforce the reproductive effects of lead for girls.