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Environ Res. 2008 Jul;107(3):380-92. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2008.01.006. Epub 2008 Mar 4.

Gender differences in the effects of organochlorines, mercury, and lead on thyroid hormone levels in lakeside communities of Quebec (Canada).

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Centre de Recherche Interdisciplinaire en Biologie, Santé, Société et Environnement CINBIOSE, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Québec, Canada.


Environmental chemicals can disrupt endocrine balance and in particular thyroid hormone (TH) homeostasis. However, studies differ with respect to thyroid profile changes and gender differences are rarely examined. This study investigated the THs, triodothyronine (T3), thyroxine (T4), and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), in relation to serum organochlorines (OCs), bioindicators of mercury (Hg) and blood lead (Pb) in 211 freshwater fish consumers (124 men and 87 women) from two communities in Canada. Thyroid hormones were within the normal range and the bioindicators of exposure were low compared to other reports on fish consumers. Stratified analysis showed that for women, serum T3 concentrations were negatively related to serum concentrations of PCB 138, PCB 153, the non-coplanar congeners, Arochlor 1260, and SigmaPCB, as well as p,p'-DDE. No relations were observed between T4 and any of the chemicals measured, but TSH was negatively related to blood Pb. For men, serum T4 was inversely related to PCB 138, non-ortho-substituted (dioxin-like) PCBs and SigmaPCB. A significant positive relationship was observed between serum TSH and different PCB congeners (PCB 138, PCB 180, non-coplanar congeners, mono-ortho coplanar congeners, dioxin-like PCBs), as well as SigmaPCB. Serum TSH increased with hair and blood Hg concentrations and was highest among those in the highest 50th percentile for both Hg and dioxin-like PCB congeners compared to the others. No associations were observed for T3 in men. These findings suggest that even at low concentrations, these environmental contaminants can interfere with thyroid status and effects may differ by gender.

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