Objective: Our purpose was to evaluate whether effects of exposure to environmental levels of PCBs and dioxins on development in the Dutch cohort persist until school age.
Study design: In the Dutch PCB/dioxin study, cognitive and motor abilities were assessed with the McCarthy Scales of Children's Abilities in children at school age. During infancy, half of this population was fully breast-fed for at least > or = 6 weeks and the other half formula fed. Prenatal exposure to PCBs was defined as the sum of PCB118, 138, 153, and 180 in maternal and cord plasma. In breast milk, additional measurements of 17 dioxins, 6 dioxin-like PCBs, and 20 nondioxin-like PCBs were done.
Results: Negative effects of prenatal PCB and dioxin exposure on cognitive and motor abilities were seen when parental and home characteristics were less optimal. These effects were not measurable in children raised in more optimal environments.
Conclusions: Neurotoxic effects of prenatal PCB and dioxin exposure may persist into school age, resulting in subtle cognitive and motor developmental delays. More optimal intellectual stimulation provided by a more advantageous parental and home environment may counteract these effects of prenatal exposure to PCBs and dioxins on cognitive and motor abilities.