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Chemosphere. 2009 Mar;74(11):1413-9. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2008.11.031. Epub 2008 Dec 23.

Polychlorinated biphenyls and thyroid hormones in adults: a systematic review appraisal of epidemiological studies.

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  • 1Department of Food and Nutrition, University of Campinas, CP 6121, Campinas, SP, CEP 13083-862, Brazil.


Reported evidence regarding relationships between polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and thyroid homeostasis in adults has been considered contradictory. The objective of this systematic review is to determine a possible association between PCB exposure and the circulating thyroid hormones and thyrotropin (TSH) levels in adults, by analyzing the quality of published studies. A systematic review of epidemiological papers was conducted using PubMed. An evaluation of the quality of 22 studies was performed, and the papers were classified into two tiers: Tier I for studies with higher quality scores (eight) and Tier II for studies with lower quality scores (14). It appears that PCBs can interfere with thyroid hormone homeostasis; however epidemiological evidence is not entirely clear. For triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), Tier I studies showed either an inverse (four cases for T3; five cases for T4) or no significant association (two cases for T3; five cases for T4) with PCBs. In the case of free thyroxine and TSH, the Tier I papers observed no clear association with PCB levels. Rigorous study design, assessment of potential confounding factors, and fuller reporting of methods and results in future studies will facilitate understanding of whether PCB exposure is associated with changes in thyroid function.

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