Environ Res. 2021 Sep;200:111435. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2021.111435. Epub 2021 Jun 10.
BACKGROUND: Studies on the health effects of metal mixtures typically utilize biomarkers measured in a single biological medium, such as blood or urine. However, the ability to evaluate mixture effects are limited by the uncertainty whether a unified medium can fully capture exposure for each metal. Therefore, it is important to compare and assess metal mixtures measured in different media in epidemiology studies.
OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to examine the mixture predictive performance of urine and blood metal biomarkers and integrated multi-media biomarkers in association with birth outcomes.
METHODS: In our analysis of 847 women from the Puerto Rico PROTECT Cohort, we measured 10 essential and non-essential metals in repeated and paired samples of urine and blood during pregnancy. For each metal, we integrated exposure estimates from paired urine and blood biomarkers into multi-media biomarkers (MMBs), using intraclass-correlation coefficient (ICC) and weighted quantile sum (WQS) approaches. Using Ridge regressions, four separate Environmental risk scores (ERSs) for metals in urine, blood, MMBICC, and MMBWQS were computed as a weighted sum of the 10 metal concentrations. We then examined associations between urine, blood, and multi-media biomarker ERSs and birth outcomes using linear and logistic regressions, adjusting for maternal age, maternal education, pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI), and second-hand smoke exposure. The performance of each ERS was evaluated with continuous and tertile estimates and 95% confidence intervals of the odds ratio of preterm birth using area under the curve (AUC).
RESULTS: Pb was the most important contributor of blood ERS as well as the two integrated multi-media biomarker ERSs. Individuals with high ERS (3rd tertile) showed increased odds of preterm birth compared to individuals with low ERS (1st tertile), with 2.8-fold (95% CI, 1.49 to 5.40) for urine (specific gravity corrected); 3.2- fold (95% CI, 1.68 to 6.25) for blood; 3.9-fold (95% CI, 1.72 to 8.66) for multi-media biomarkers composed using ICC; and 5.2-fold (95% CI, 2.34 to 11.42) for multi-media biomarkers composed using WQS. The four ERSs had comparable predictive performances (AUC ranging from 0.64 to 0.68) when urine is examined with specific gravity corrected concentrations.
CONCLUSIONS: Within a practical metal panel, measuring metals in either urine or blood may be an equally good approach to evaluate the metals as a mixture. Applications in practical study design require validation of these methods with other cohorts, larger panels of metals and within the context of other adverse health effects of interest.