Effects of dioxins, PCBs, and PBDEs on immunology and hematology in adolescents

Environ Sci Technol. 2009 Oct 15;43(20):7946-51. doi: 10.1021/es901480f.


Dioxins and PCBs are environmental pollutants, proven to be immunotoxic. In the period 1987-1991 a cohort of mother-baby pairs was initiated to detect abnormalities in relation to dioxin levels in the mother's milk. At birth and at follow-up at 8-12 years, immunological and hematological effects were seen, prompting us to perform a new follow-up during adolescence. In addition, we assessed the immunological and hematological parameters in relation to current levels of PBDEs and PCBs. In the Netherlands, the pre- and postnatal exposure to dioxins have been studied prospectively since 1987. Venapuncture was performed to assess hematological (Hemoglobin, thrombocytes, thrombopoietin) and immunological (leukocytes, leukocyte differentiation) parameters and the current serum levels of dioxin, dioxinlike (dl)-PCBs and PBDEs. A decrease in the number of polymorphic neutrophils was found in adolescents with higher dl-PCBs in their serum (p = 0.021). No relation with total leukocytes, thrombocytes, hemoglobin, or thrombopoietin levels was seen. Similarly, we found no relation between prenatal, nor current dioxin levels and the hematological and the immunological parameters determined. The SigmaPBDEs were negatively associated with the number of lymphocytes (p = 0.01) and positively associated with the hemoglobin concentration (p = 0.003). These effects on the innate immunity by current levels of dl-PCBs and on the adaptive immunity by PBDEs are disconcerting, especially as the dl-PCB (0.04-7.8 WHOTEQ pg/g lipid, mean: 2.2 WHOTEQ pg/g lipid) and SigmaPBDE levels (mean 14.0 ng/g lipid, including one outlier with a sum of 73.6 ng/g lipid) were not high.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Blood / drug effects*
  • Breast Feeding
  • Dioxins / blood
  • Dioxins / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / blood
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Young Adult


  • Dioxins
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls