Environmental Toxins Research: Polychlorinated Biphenyls

Cognitive development in preschool children prenatally exposed to PCBs and MeHg.

Stewart PW, Reihman J, Lonky EI, Darvill TJ, Pagano J.  Department of Psychology, State University of New York at Oswego, Oswego, NY 13126, USA. pstewar1@oswego.edu  Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2003 Jan-Feb;25(1):11-22.

A number of epidemiological studies have shown predictive relationships between prenatal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and subtle deficits in cognitive development in infancy through the preschool years [Child Dev. 56 (1985) 853; J. Pediatr. 116 (1990) 38; J. Pediatr. 134 (1999) 33; Toxicol. Lett. 102-103 (1998) 423; Neurotox. 21 (6) (2000) 1029-1038]. However, since not all studies have demonstrated these relationships (J. Pediatr. 119 (1991) 58-63), debate regarding the role of prenatal PCB exposure in cognitive development continues. The current study was designed to provide additional data to assist in resolving this question. Two hundred twelve children enrolled in the Oswego Newborn and Infant Development Project were assessed using the McCarthy Scales of Children’s Abilities at 38 months of age, followed by a reassessment at 54 months of age. The relationship between prenatal exposure to PCBs (cord blood PCBs) and McCarthy performance was assessed at both ages after first controlling for a wide range of important predictors of cognitive development, including socioeconomic status (SES), maternal IQ, maternal education, home environment, cigarette smoking, and many others. Cord blood PCBs were statistically significant predictors of small but measurable deficits in McCarthy performance at 38 months of age. Moreover, a significant interaction between cord blood PCBs and maternal hair mercury (MeHg) was found, such that negative associations between prenatal MeHg exposure and McCarthy performance were found in subjects with higher levels of prenatal PCB exposure. No relationship between PCBs and/or MeHg and McCarthy performance was observed when the children were reassessed almost 1.5 years later (54 months of age). Inspection of the age-related trajectory of McCarthy performance revealed that the more highly exposed children caught up with the least exposed children by 54 months. Although the current data partially replicate the findings of Jacobson et al., Patandin et al., and Walkowiak et al. [J. Pediatr. 116 (1990) 38; J. Pediatr. 134 (1999) 33; Lancet 358 (2001) 1602], results reported here suggest that functional recovery may occur. Moreover, the interaction between PCB and MeHg cannot be considered conclusive until it has been replicated in subsequent investigations.



Polychlorinated biphenyls, organochlorine pesticides and neurodevelopment.

Korrick SA, Sagiv SK.  Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA. susan.korrick@channing.harvard.edu  Curr Opin Pediatr. 2008 Apr;20(2):198-204.

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Although environmental levels of polychlorinated biphenyls and certain organochlorine pesticides–hexachlorobenzene, dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane and its primary metabolite, dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethene–are generally on the decline, early-life exposures to these prevalent contaminants continue. The review will describe current understanding of the potential neurodevelopmental consequences of low-level exposures to these contaminants.

RECENT FINDINGS: Animal models suggest that early-life exposures to polychlorinated biphenyls, dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane/dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethene or hexachlorobenzene are associated with decreased cognitive or behavioral function in later development. Despite almost 30 years of research, however, results of human studies are inconsistent regarding the nature of the observed effects and their persistence over time. Overall, epidemiologic studies support modest associations of primarily prenatal polychlorinated biphenyl exposures with differences in neuromotor development, decrements in cognition and behavioral deficits, particularly regarding attention and impulse control. There are limited published human data regarding potential neurodevelopmental toxicities of early-life exposures to dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane/dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethene and hexachlorobenzene.

SUMMARY: Exposures to polychlorinated biphenyls, dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane/dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethene and hexachlorobenzene are likely detrimental to neurodevelopment. Effective control of exposure is complicated by variable exposure sources and variable contaminant levels in food, particularly fish, for which it is important to balance the risk of contaminants with nutritional benefits.



Prenatal exposure to low-level polychlorinated biphenyls in relation to mental and motor development at 8 months.

Daniels JL, Longnecker MP, Klebanoff MA, Gray KA, Brock JW, Zhou H, Chen Z, Needham LL.  Epidemiology Branch, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, NC, USA. Julie_Daniels@unc.edu  Am J Epidemiol. 2003 Mar 15;157(6):485-92.

The relation between exposure to low levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a class of persistent organic pollutants, and cognitive and motor development in young children has been examined in several studies, and results have varied. The authors evaluated the association between prenatal exposure to PCBs and children’s neurodevelopment using data from the Collaborative Perinatal Project. Pregnant women were enrolled from 1959 to 1965 from 12 sites across the United States. PCBs were measured in maternal serum taken during pregnancy. To measure children’s mental and psychomotor development at 8 months of age, the authors administered the Bayley Scales of Infant Development (means, 87 (standard deviation, 15) and 88 (standard deviation, 18), respectively). Overall, they did not observe a relation between prenatal PCB exposure and children’s mental or psychomotor scores (n = 1,207; multivariate adjusted beta = 0.1 point per micro g/liter increase of PCB, p = 0.71, and beta = 0.5, p = 0.14, respectively). The PCB-psychomotor score relation varied by study center (p < 0.05): The association was direct in some centers, inverse in others. This could not be attributed to variation in the timing or measurement of the child’s neurodevelopment or analysis of PCBs because these were standardized across centers. The reasons for variation in results within this study and across other studies remain unclear.