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Environ Int. 2013 Apr;54:112-8. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2013.01.015. Epub 2013 Feb 21.

Tobacco smoke increases the risk of otitis media among Greenlandic Inuit children while exposure to organochlorines remain insignificant.

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  • 1Department of Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery, Rigshospitalet, University Hospital of Copenhagen, Denmark. ramon@dadlnet.dk



Prenatal exposure to environmental levels of organochlorines (OCs) has been demonstrated to have immunotoxic effects in humans. We investigated the relationship between prenatal exposure to OCs and the occurrence of otitis media (OM) among Inuit children in Greenland.


We estimated the concentration of 14 PCB congeners and 11 pesticides in maternal and cord blood samples and in breast milk in a population-based cohort of 400 mother-child pairs. At follow-up, we examined the children's ears and used their medical records to assess the OM occurrence and severity. Multivariate regression analyses were used with adjustments for passive smoking, crowding, dietary habits, parent's educational level, breast feeding and the use of child-care.


The children were 4-10 years of age at follow-up and 223 (85%) participated. We found no association between prenatal OC exposure and the development of OM. Factors associated with the child's hazard of OM during the first 4 years of life were: mother's history of OM (HR 1.70, 95% CI 1.11-2.59, p=0.01); mother's smoking habits: current (HR 2.47, 95% CI 1.45-4.21, p<0.01) and previous (HR 2.00, 95% CI 1.19-3.36, p<0.01); number of smokers in the home (HR 1.17, 95% CI 1.05-1.31, p<0.01). After adjustment mothers' smoking habits remained significant.


We found no relationship between high levels of prenatal exposure of OCs and occurrence of OM. Passive smoking was found as the strongest environmental risk factor for the development of OM. Interventions to reduce passive smoke in children's environment are needed.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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