No safe threshold level of lead exposure in children has been recognized. Also, the information on shielding effect of maternal dietary iron intake during pregnancy on the adverse effects of prenatal lead exposure on children's postnatal neurocognitive development is very limited. We examined the association of prenatal lead exposure and neurodevelopment in children at 6, 12, 24, and 36 months and the protective action of maternal dietary iron intake against the impact of lead exposure. The study participants comprise 965 pregnant women and their subsequent offspring of the total participants enrolled in the Mothers and Children's environmental health study: A prospective birth cohort study. Generalized linear model and linear mixed model analysis were performed to analyze the effect of prenatal lead exposure and mother's dietary iron intake on children's cognitive development at 6, 12, 24, and 36 months. Maternal late pregnancy lead was marginally associated with deficits in mental development index (MDI) of children at 6 months. Mothers having less than 75th percentile of dietary iron intake during pregnancy showed significant increase in the harmful effect of late pregnancy lead exposure on MDI at 6 months. Linear mixed model analyses showed the significant detrimental effect of prenatal lead exposure in late pregnancy on cognitive development up to 36 months in children of mothers having less dietary iron intake during pregnancy. Thus, our findings imply importance to reduce prenatal lead exposure and have adequate iron intake for better neurodevelopment in children.
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