Effects of Perinatal Dioxin Exposure on Development of Children during the First 3 Years of Life

J Pediatr. 2016 Aug;175:159-166.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.04.064. Epub 2016 May 14.


Objective: To investigate the longitudinal effects of perinatal exposure to dioxin on neurodevelopment and physical growth of a birth cohort during the first 3 years of life.

Study design: A total of 217 mother-infant pairs living in a dioxin-contaminated area in Vietnam were followed up. Perinatal dioxin exposure of infants was estimated by the measurement of dioxin levels in breast milk of nursing mothers. Neurodevelopment of infants and children, including cognitive, language, and motor development, was determined at 4 months, 1 year, and 3 years of age. Physical growth, including weight, height, and head and abdominal circumferences, was measured at birth, 1 and 4 months, and 1 and 3 years of age. Multivariate mixed models were applied for analyzing repeated measures.

Results: In boys, composite motor and gross motor scores were decreased with increasing exposure of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (2,3,7,8-TetraCDD). The high toxic equivalent of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDDs/PCDFs-TEQ) group showed a significant decrease in expressive communication score. In girls, there was no decreased score in any neurodevelopment aspects in high-exposure groups. All body size measures in boys were decreased in the high-exposure groups of 2,3,7,8-TetraCDD and PCDDs/PCDFs-TEQ. In girls, high 2,3,7,8-TetraCDD and PCDDs/PCDFs-TEQ exposure was associated with increased head and abdominal circumferences.

Conclusions: Perinatal dioxin exposure affects physical growth and neurodevelopment of infants and children in the first 3 years of life in a sex-specific manner.

Keywords: herbicides; neurodevelopment; physical growth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child Development / drug effects*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Growth / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Language Development
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Milk, Human / chemistry
  • Motor Skills / drug effects
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / analysis
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / toxicity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced*
  • Sex Factors
  • Vietnam


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins