Maternal exposure to airborne polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and risk of adverse birth outcomes

Tidsskriftartikel - 2021


Human health effects of airborne lower-chlorinated polychlorinated biphenyls (LC-PCBs) are largely unexplored. Since PCBs may cross the placenta, maternal exposure could potentially have negative consequences for fetal development. We aimed to determine if exposure to airborne PCB during pregnancy was associated with adverse birth outcomes. In this cohort study, exposed women had lived in PCB contaminated apartments at least one year during the 3.6 years before conception or the entire first trimester of pregnancy. The women and their children were followed for birth outcomes in Danish health registers. Logistic regression was performed to estimate odds ratios (OR) for changes in secondary sex ratio, preterm birth, major congenital malformations, cryptorchidism, and being born small for gestational age. We performed linear regression to estimate difference in birth weight among children of exposed and unexposed mothers. All models were adjusted for maternal age, educational level, ethnicity, and calendar time. We identified 885 exposed pregnancies and 3327 unexposed pregnancies. Relative to unexposed women, exposed women had OR 0.97 (95% CI 0.82, 1.15) for secondary sex ratio, OR 1.13 (95% CI 0.76, 1.67) for preterm birth, OR 1.28 (95% CI 0.81, 2.01) for having a child with major malformations, OR 1.73 (95% CI 1.01, 2.95) for cryptorchidism and OR 1.23 (95% CI 0.88, 1.72) for giving birth to a child born small for gestational age. The difference in birth weight for children of exposed compared to unexposed women was - 32 g (95% CI-79, 14). We observed an increased risk of cryptorchidism among boys after maternal airborne LC-PCB exposure, but due to the proxy measure of exposure, inability to perform dose-response analyses, and the lack of comparable literature, larger cohort studies with direct measures of exposure are needed to investigate the safety of airborne LC-PCB exposure during pregnancy.


Kofoed AB, Deen L, Hougaard KS, Petersen KU, Meyer HW, Pedersen EB, Ebbehøj NE, Heitmann BL, Bonde JP, Tøttenborg SS. Maternal exposure to airborne polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and risk of adverse birth outcomes. European Journal of Epidemiology 2021;36(8):861-872.
doi: 10.1007/s10654-021-00793-x

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