OBJECTIVE--To measure the concentrations of the trace elements lead and cadmium in human placenta and in maternal and neonatal (cord) blood. To assess the influence of the strongly polluted environment on the content of metals in tissues and on the permeability of placenta to cadmium and lead. Various methods of mineralisation were tested before analysis. METHODS--Graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry was used for the determination of lead and cadmium. The samples for analysis were prepared by mineralisation under pressure in a Teflon bomb (HNO3, 110 degrees C), by wet ashing under normal pressure (HNO3 + H2O2 for 12 hours), and by microwave digestion in concentrated nitric acid. RESULTS--In analysed samples the following mean concentrations of cadmium and lead were found: in venous blood Pb = 72.50 ng/ml, Cd = 4.90 ng/ml; in placenta Pb = 0.50 microgram/g, Cd = 0.11 microgram/g; in cord blood Pb = 38.31 ng/ml, Cd = 1.13 ng/ml. CONCLUSION--High concentrations of lead and cadmium were found in placentas and in maternal blood whereas in neonatal blood there was an increased concentration of lead and only traces of cadmium. It is concluded that the placenta is a better barrier for cadmium than for lead. Among the examined methods of mineralisation, microwave digestion was the best.
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