Development after exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls and dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethene transplacentally and through human milk

J Pediatr. 1988 Dec;113(6):991-5. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(88)80569-9.


Objective: To determine whether exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) or dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethene (DDE), either transplacentally or through breast feeding, affected scores on the Bayley Scales of Infant Development at 6 or 12 months of age.

Design: Cohort followed from birth to 1 year of age.

Setting: General community.

Participants: Volunteer sample of 858 infants, of whom 802 had Bayley scores available at either 6 months or 12 months or both.

Interventions: None.

Measurements and main results: Bayley scales and chemical measurements were done independently. Higher transplacental exposure to PCBs was associated with lower psychomotor scores at both 6 and 12 months of age; the difference between the mean scores in the lowest and highest PCB groups was 7 points at 6 months and 8 points at 12 months. Higher transplacental exposure to DDE was associated with higher mental scores at 6 months of age (the difference between the mean scores in the lowest and highest DDE groups was 6 points), but no relationship was seen at 12 months. Exposure to either chemical through breast feeding was apparently unrelated to Bayley scores.

Conclusions: Transplacental exposure to PCBs was associated with lower psychomotor scores. No deleterious effects were associated with breast feeding.

MeSH terms

  • Brain / drug effects
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Child Development / drug effects*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / adverse effects*
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / analysis
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intelligence / drug effects
  • Milk, Human / analysis*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / adverse effects*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / analysis
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects


  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls