Exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls and levels of thyroid hormones in children

Environ Health Perspect. 1999 Oct;107(10):843-9. doi: 10.1289/ehp.99107843.


As part of an epidemiologic study on exposure to a toxic waste incineration plant we investigated whether blood concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), lead, and cadmium, as well as concentration of mercury in 24-hr urine samples were associated with thyroid hormone status. As an indication of status, we determined levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), free thyroxine (FT(4)), and free triiodothyronine (FT(3)) in children living in households where [less than/equal to] 10 cigarettes were smoked per day. Eight PCB congeners (PCBs 101, 118, 138, 153, 170, 180, 183, and 187) were measured in whole blood samples. Of these, seven congeners (PCB 101 was not detected in any sample) and the sum of all PCB congeners were analyzed as predictors for thyroid hormone status in separate linear regression models adjusted for potential confounders. In addition, the possible effects of cadmium, lead, and mercury on levels of thyroid hormones were examined. Blood concentrations and information on questionnaire data were available for 320 children 7-10 years of age. We found a statistically significant positive association between the mono-ortho congener PCB 118 and TSH as well as statistically significant negative relationships of PCBs 138, 153, 180, 183, and 187 to FT(3). There was no association for the PCB congeners and FT(4). Blood cadmium concentration was associated with increasing TSH and diminishing FT(4). Blood lead and urine concentration of mercury were of no importance to thyroid hormone levels. The results stress the need for future studies on the possible influences of PCB and cadmium exposure on thyroid hormones, particularly in children. These studies should also take neurologic development into account.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cadmium / blood
  • Cadmium / toxicity
  • Child
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Lead / blood
  • Lead / toxicity
  • Male
  • Mercury / blood
  • Mercury / toxicity
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Thyroid Hormones / blood*


  • Thyroid Hormones
  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  • Mercury