Prenatal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxins from the maternal diet may be associated with immunosuppressive effects that persist into early childhood

Food Chem Toxicol. 2013 Jan;51:165-72. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2012.09.027. Epub 2012 Oct 2.


We investigated whether prenatal exposure from the maternal diet to the toxicants polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins is associated with the development of immune-related diseases in childhood. Children participating in BraMat, a sub-cohort of the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa), were followed in the three first years of life using annual questionnaires (0-3years; n=162, 2-3years; n=180), and blood parameters were examined at three years of age (n=114). The maternal intake of the toxicants was calculated using a validated food frequency questionnaire from MoBa. Maternal exposure to PCBs and dioxins was found to be associated with an increased risk of wheeze and more frequent upper respiratory tract infections. Furthermore, maternal exposure to PCBs and dioxins was found to be associated with reduced antibody response to a measles vaccine. No associations were found between prenatal exposure and immunophenotype data, allergic sensitization and vaccine-induced antibody responses other than measles. Our results suggest that prenatal dietary exposure to PCBs and dioxins may increase the risk of wheeze and the susceptibility to infectious diseases in early childhood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Antibody Formation
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dioxins / toxicity*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Food Contamination
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Measles Vaccine / immunology
  • Norway
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Respiratory Sounds / etiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / chemically induced
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Dioxins
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Measles Vaccine
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls