Neurochemical targets and behavioral effects of organohalogen compounds: an update

Crit Rev Toxicol. 2006 Mar;36(3):253-89. doi: 10.1080/10408440500534164.


Organohalogen compounds (OHCs) have been used and still are used extensively as pesticides, flame retardants, hydraulic fluids, and in other industrial applications. These compounds are stable, most often lipophilic, and may therefore easily biomagnify. Today these compounds are found distributed both in human tissue, including breast milk, and in wildlife animals. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, high levels of the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and the pesticide dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane (DDT) were detected in the environment. In the 1970s it was discovered that PCBs and some chlorinated pesticides, such as lindane, have neurotoxic potentials after both acute and chronic exposure. Although the use of PCBs, DDT, and other halogenated pesticides has been reduced, and environmental levels of these compounds are slowly diminishing, other halogenated compounds with potential of toxic effects are being found in the environment. These include the brominated flame retardants, chlorinated paraffins (PCAs), and perfluorinated compounds, whose levels are increasing. It is now established that several OHCs have neurobehavioral effects, indicating adverse effects on the central nervous system (CNS). For instance, several reports have shown that OHCs alter neurotransmitter functions in CNS and Ca2+ homeostatic processes, induce protein kinase C (PKC) and phospholipase A2 (PLA2) mobilization, and induce oxidative stress. In this review we summarize the findings of the neurobehavioral and neurochemical effects of some of the major OHCs with our main focus on the PCBs. Further, we try to elucidate, on the basis of available literature, the possible implications of these findings on human health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects*
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Hexachlorobenzene / chemistry
  • Hexachlorobenzene / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Halogenated / chemistry
  • Hydrocarbons, Halogenated / toxicity*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Long-Term Potentiation
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / chemistry
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity*
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / chemistry
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / toxicity
  • Risk Assessment
  • Signal Transduction


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Hydrocarbons, Halogenated
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • Hexachlorobenzene
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  • Calcium
  • Dopamine