Prenatal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls and postnatal growth: a structural analysis
Normal endocrine function in utero and early in childhood influences later height and weight attainment. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are persistent environmental contaminants with suspected endocrine-disrupting properties. PCBs may mimic or inhibit hormone and endocrine processes based in part on their structural configuration, with non-ortho-substituted PCBs having a coplanar orientation and ortho-substituted PCBs becoming increasingly noncoplanar. Coplanar and noncoplanar PCBs have known differences in biologic effect. Animal studies link prenatal PCB exposure to adverse birth and early-life growth outcomes, but epidemiologic studies are conflicting. We examined whether prenatal exposure to PCBs, categorized by their degree of ortho-substitution, affected childhood height and weight attainment in 150 children (109 boys and 41 girls) with African-American mothers born at the Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital from 1959 through 1962. Stratifying by sex, we used regression models for repeated measures to investigate associations between maternal levels of PCBs and height and weight through 17 years of age. Maternal levels of ortho-substituted PCBs were associated with reduced weight through 17 years of age among girls but not among boys. Tri-ortho-substituted PCBs were marginally associated with increased height in boys. Although limited by sample size, our results suggest that prenatal exposure to PCBs may affect growth, especially in girls, and that ortho-substitution is an important determinant of its effect on growth.