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Open Access Research

Association of umbilical cord blood lead with neonatal behavior at varying levels of exposure

Archana B Patel12, Manju R Mamtani2, Tushar P Thakre23* and Hemant Kulkarni2

Author Affiliations

1 Clinical Epidemiology Unit, Indira Gandhi Government Medical College, Nagpur, India

2 Lata Medical Research Foundation, Nagpur, India

3 University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, TX, USA

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Behavioral and Brain Functions 2006, 2:22  doi:10.1186/1744-9081-2-22

Published: 27 June 2006



In the light of the ongoing debate about lowering the cut-off for acceptable blood lead level to <5 μg/dL from the currently recommended level of <10 μg/dL, we considered whether prenatal exposure to varying levels of lead is associated with similar or disparate effects on neonatal behavior.


Using Brazelton's Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale (NBAS), an epidemiological approach and robust statistical techniques like multivariate linear regression, logistic regression, Poisson regression and structural equations modeling analyses we estimated the simultaneous indirect effects of umbilical cord blood lead (CBL) levels and other neonatal covariates on the NBAS clusters.


We observed that when analyzed in all study subjects, the CBL levels independently and strongly influenced autonomic stability and abnormal reflexes clusters. However, when the analysis was restricted to neonates with CBL <10 μg/dL, CBL levels strongly influenced the range of state, motor and autonomic stability clusters. Abnormal walking reflex was consistently associated with an increased CBL level irrespective of the cut-off for CBL, however, only at the lower cut-offs were the predominantly behavioral effects of CBL discernible.


Our results further endorse the need to be cognizant of the detrimental effects of blood lead on neonates even at a low-dose prenatal exposure.