Birth delivery mode modifies the associations between prenatal polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) and neonatal thyroid hormone levels

Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Oct;116(10):1376-82. doi: 10.1289/ehp.11379. Epub 2008 May 27.


Background: Developing infants may be especially sensitive to hormone disruption from chemicals including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).

Objective: We investigated relationships between cord serum levels of PCBs and PBDEs and thyroid hormones measured in cord blood serum and neonatal blood spots.

Methods: We measured PCBs and PBDEs, thyrotropin (TSH), thyroxine (T4) and free T4 (FT4) in cord blood serum from 297 infants who were delivered at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in 2004-2005. We abstracted results of total T4 (TT4) measured in blood spots collected in the hospital and at neonatal visits. We used delivery mode (augmented vaginal deliveries and nonelective cesarean deliveries) as a surrogate for intrapartum stress, which is known to alter cord blood thyroid hormones.

Results: In the full study population, no compounds were associated with a change in average TSH, FT4, or TT4. BDE-100 was associated with increased odds of low cord TT4, BDE-153 with increased odds of low cord TT4 and FT4, and no compounds were associated with increased odds of high TSH. For infants born by spontaneous, vaginal, unassisted deliveries, PCBs were associated with lower cord TT4 and FT4 and lower TT4 measured in neonatal blood spots. PBDEs showed consistent but mainly nonsignificant negative associations with TT4 and FT4 measurements.

Conclusions: Prenatal PCB and PBDE exposures were associated with reduced TT4 and FT4 levels among infants born by spontaneous, unassisted vaginal delivery. Intrapartum stress associated with delivery mode may mask hormonal effects of PCBs and PBDEs.

Keywords: children; cord blood; endocrine disruption; environmental health; polybrominated diphenyl ethers; polychlorinated biphenyls; thyroid hormones.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Delivery, Obstetric / methods*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Polybrominated Biphenyls / toxicity*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Thyroid Hormones / blood*


  • Polybrominated Biphenyls
  • Thyroid Hormones
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls