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Acta Paediatr Suppl. 2006 Oct;95(453):55-64.

The effects of PCBs and dioxins on child health.

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Public Health Services Gelderland Midden, Arnhem, The Netherlands.



Dioxins and PCBs are highly persistent and highly toxic environmental pollutants which at present are derived mainly from waste incineration and food contamination. They are widespread in nature and pollute human food, including breast milk so that basically all children in Europe are exposed to measurable levels.


The toxicity of dioxins and PCBs are well described both from animal studies and from a number of human epidemiological studies including several large cohort studies. Especially developmental exposure has been shown to affect endocrine and cognitive systems negatively. Measurable outcomes include reduced IQ and changed behaviour. Foetotoxic effects with reduced birth weight and increased congenital anomalies such as cleft lip have also been described. Exposure to PCBs and dioxins must be considered also in the context of multiple exposure to several toxins simultaneously or sequentially.


Some measures aimed at reducing exposure to dioxins have been partly successful in that the dioxin content of breast milk is going down. However, further steps to reduce exposure must be taken. We suggest legislative measures for reducing the re-entry of especially PCBs from waste into the environment. Individual pre-conception counselling is recommended in order to reduce developmental exposure and its consequences. Biomonitoring of the substances themselves in breast milk and foods is recommended as well as monitoring possible endocrine effects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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