Effects of dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls on thyroid hormone status of pregnant women and their infants

Pediatr Res. 1994 Oct;36(4):468-73. doi: 10.1203/00006450-199410000-00009.


Dioxins [polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDD), dibenzofurans (PCDF)] and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) are potentially hazardous compounds. Animal studies have demonstrated that PCDD, PCDF, and PCB can alter thyroid hormone homeostasis. We investigated thyroid hormone levels in 105 mother-infant pairs. To estimate maternal and infant exposure, four nonplanar PCB congeners were measured in maternal plasma during the last month of pregnancy and in umbilical cord plasma. Seventeen PCDD and PCDF congeners, three planar PCB congeners, and 23 nonplanar PCB congeners were measured in human milk. Higher PCDD, PCDF, and PCB levels in human milk, expressed as toxic equivalents, correlated significantly with lower plasma levels of maternal total triiodothyronine and total thyroxine, and with higher plasma-levels of TSH in the infants in the 2nd wk and 3rd mo after birth. Infants exposed to higher toxic equivalents levels had also lower plasma free thyroxine and total thyroxine levels in the 2nd wk after birth. We conclude that elevated levels of dioxins and PCB can alter the human thyroid hormone status.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding
  • Dioxins / analysis*
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn / physiology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Netherlands
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / analysis*
  • Postpartum Period / physiology*
  • Pregnancy / physiology*
  • Thyroid Hormones / blood*
  • Thyrotropin / blood
  • Thyroxine / blood
  • Time Factors
  • Triiodothyronine / blood
  • Urban Population


  • Dioxins
  • Thyroid Hormones
  • Triiodothyronine
  • Thyrotropin
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  • Thyroxine