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Am J Epidemiol. 2005 Jul 1;162(1):17-26.

In utero exposure to background levels of polychlorinated biphenyls and cognitive functioning among school-age children.

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  • 1Division of Extramural Research and Training, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA.


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are ubiquitous environmental contaminants. In utero exposure to background levels of PCBs has been associated with intellectual impairment among children in most, but not all, studies. The authors evaluated prenatal PCB exposure in relation to cognitive test (intelligence quotient (IQ)) scores on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children at age 7 years. Pregnant women were recruited from 12 US study centers from 1959 to 1965, and their children were followed until age 7 years (the Collaborative Perinatal Project). Third trimester serum was analyzed for PCBs in 1997-1999 for 732 women selected at random and for an additional 162 women whose children had either a low or a high IQ score. The PCB-IQ association was examined in multivariate models. Among those in the lowest exposure category (<1.25 microg of PCB/liter of serum), the fully adjusted mean IQ score was 93.6 (standard error: 1.8); among those in the highest category (> or =5 microg of PCB/liter), the mean IQ was 97.6 (standard error: 1.2); and overall the increase in IQ per unit increase in PCB level (microg/liter) was 0.22 (95% confidence interval: -0.28, 0.71). In these data, in utero exposure to background levels of PCBs was not associated with lower IQ at age 7 years.

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