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Am J Epidemiol. 2003 Mar 15;157(6):485-92.

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

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  • 1Epidemiology Branch, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, NC, USA.


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.

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