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Arch Toxicol. 1995;69(9):596-602.

Placental and lactational transfer of lead in rats: a study on the lactational process and effects on offspring.

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  • 1Toxicology Division, Swedish National Food Administration, Uppsala, Sweden.


The effects of placental and lactational exposure to lead (Pb) were studied in suckling rats after long-term exposure of their dams to Pb in drinking water. Dams were given 12 mM Pb-acetate in the drinking water 8 weeks prior to mating and during gestation. One group of dams was also continuously exposed during lactation until day 15. Neonates from Pb-treated dams were cross-fostered at birth to control dams treated with Na-acetate (12 mM) in the drinking water. In the same way, neonates from dams receiving control water were in the same way cross-fostered to Pb-exposed dams. All animals were killed at day 15 of lactation, when measurements were performed. Continuous Pb exposure during gestation and lactation resulted in milk Pb levels approximately 2.5 times higher than the blood Pb levels. When Pb exposure was terminated at parturition the milk Pb levels were at a level similar to those of blood Pb at day 15 of lactation, and only 10% of the milk levels found after continuous Pb exposure. Exposure to Pb via placenta and milk in offspring from dams exposed continuously resulted in more than 6 times higher blood and brain Pb levels than in offspring exposed only via the placenta. Exposure only via milk in offspring from dams exposed to Pb until parturition resulted in higher blood Pb levels than in offspring exposed to Pb only via the placenta. This indicates that the lactational transfer after current or recent exposure of Pb in dams is considerably higher than placental transfer. Offspring in all the exposed groups had decreased ALAD activity in the blood. An exponential relationship between blood Pb levels and ALAD activity was demonstrated in the offspring. Due to the exponential decrease in ALAD activity at increasing blood Pb levels, ALAD is particularly sensitive in reflecting differences in Pb exposure within the lowest range of blood Pb levels. There was a slight effect on weight gain in the offspring. However, there was no effect on milk quality, as measure by milk lipid, protein and calcium concentrations, nor on milk production assessed by the mammary gland RNA and DNA content. This indicates that the effect on weight gain was a direct effect of Pb in the offspring.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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