Prenatal exposure to PCB-153, p,p'-DDE and birth outcomes in 9000 mother-child pairs: exposure-response relationship and effect modifiers

Environ Int. 2015 Jan:74:23-31. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2014.09.013. Epub 2014 Oct 11.


Low-level exposure to polychlorinated biphenyl-153 (PCB-153) and dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (p-p'-DDE) can impair fetal growth; however, the exposure-response relationship and effect modifiers of such association are not well established. This study is an extension of an earlier European meta-analysis. Our aim was to explore exposure-response relationship between PCB-153 and p-p'-DDE and birth outcomes; to evaluate whether any no exposure-effect level and susceptible subgroups exist; and to assess the role of maternal gestational weight gain (GWG). We used a pooled dataset of 9377 mother-child pairs enrolled in 14 study populations from 11 European birth cohorts. General additive models were used to evaluate the shape of the relationships between organochlorine compounds and birth outcomes. We observed an inverse linear exposure-response relationship between prenatal exposure to PCB-153 and birth weight [decline of 194g (95% CI -314, -74) per 1μg/L increase in PCB-153]. We showed effects on birth weight over the entire exposure range, including at low levels. This reduction seems to be stronger among children of mothers who were non-Caucasian or had smoked during pregnancy. The most susceptible subgroup was girls whose mothers smoked during pregnancy. After adjusting for absolute GWG or estimated fat mass, a reduction in birth weight was still observed. This study suggests that the association between low-level exposure to PCB-153 and birth weight exists and follows an inverse linear exposure-response relationship with effects even at low levels, and that maternal smoking and ethnicity modify this association.

Keywords: Biomarkers of exposure; Birth weight; Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE); Persistent organic pollutants; Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Birth Weight*
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / blood
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / toxicity*
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  • 2,4,5,2',4',5'-hexachlorobiphenyl