Report of the WHO working group on the assessment of health risks for human infants from exposure to PCDDs, PCDFs and PCBs

Chemosphere. Oct-Nov 1998;37(9-12):1627-43. doi: 10.1016/s0045-6535(98)00230-6.


On Nov. 20-22, 1995, a World Health Organization working group consisting of 12 scientific representatives from 6 different countries met to reassess the health risks to infants associated with perinatal exposure to polyhalogenated aromatic hydrocarbons (PHAHs). Following a review of previous WHO/EURO consultations, as part of their comprehensive programme on PCDDs, PCDFs and PCBs, current exposure information and recent experimental and epidemiologic data were discussed. Exposure assessments within the past decade have revealed that in the case of breast milk samples concentrations of PCDDs/DFs and PCBs have shown a continual decline, in certain countries by up to 50%. New experimental data has revealed that a variety of structural, functional and behaviourial alterations can be induced in rodent species following exposure to PHAHs while a Dutch collaborative PCB/dioxin study has illustrated subtle clinical, endocrine and mental/psychomotor development effects can occur in breast fed infants. The provisional conclusions of the working group were: 1) current evidence does not warrant altering the previous WHO recommendation for promotion/support of breast feeding and 2) based on new clinical data which supports the biological plausibility of certain observed experimental observations, continued and enhanced effort should be directed towards identifying and controlling sources of environmental input for these contaminants.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzofurans / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Global Health*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lactation
  • Mice
  • Milk, Human / chemistry
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / adverse effects*
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / adverse effects
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / analogs & derivatives*
  • Public Policy
  • Rats
  • Risk Assessment*
  • Soil Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • World Health Organization


  • Benzofurans
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls