Perinatal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxins and its effect on neonatal neurological development

Early Hum Dev. 1995 Apr 14;41(2):111-27. doi: 10.1016/0378-3782(94)01611-r.


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins (polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), and dibenzofurans (PCDFs)) are widespread environmental contaminants which are neurotoxic in animals. Perinatal exposure to PCBs, PCDDs, and PCDFs occurs prenatally via the placenta and postnatally via breast milk. To investigate whether such an exposure affects the neonatal neurological condition, the neurological optimality of 418 Dutch newborns was evaluated with the Prechtl neurological examination. Half of the infants were breast-fed, the other half were formula-fed, representing a relatively high against a relatively low postnatally exposed group, respectively. As an index of prenatal exposure, four non-planar PCBs in cord and maternal plasma were used. These PCB levels were not related to neurological function. As measures of combined pre- and early neonatal exposure, 17 dioxin congeners, three planar, and 23 non-planar PCB congeners were determined in human milk in the second week after delivery. Higher levels of PCBs, PCDDs, and PCDFs in breast milk were related to reduced neonatal neurological optimality. Higher levels of planar PCBs in breast milk were associated with a higher incidence of hypotonia. This study confirms previous reports about the neurotoxic effects of these compounds on the developing brain of newborn infants.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Benzofurans / adverse effects*
  • Benzofurans / analysis
  • Breast Feeding
  • Dioxins / adverse effects*
  • Dioxins / analysis
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Milk, Human / chemistry
  • Nervous System / drug effects*
  • Nervous System / growth & development
  • Netherlands
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / adverse effects*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / analysis
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Posture
  • Pregnancy
  • Reflex / drug effects


  • Benzofurans
  • Dioxins
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls