Prenatal polychlorinated biphenyl exposures in eastern Slovakia modify effects of social factors on birthweight

Dean Sonneborn, Hye Youn Park, Jan Petrik, Anton Kocan, Lubica Palkovicova, Tomas Trnovec, Danh Nguyen, Irva Hertz-Picciotto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) were widely used for industrial purposes and consumer products, but because of their toxicity, production was banned by most industrialised countries in the late 1970s. In eastern Slovakia, they were produced until 1985. During 2002-04, a birth cohort of mothers (n = 1057) residing in two Slovak districts was enrolled at delivery, and their specimens and information were collected after birth. Congeners of PCBs were measured in maternal serum by high-resolution gas chromatography with electron capture detection. In this study, we used multiple linear regression to examine the effects of prenatal PCB exposure on birthweight adjusted for gestational age, controlling for inter-pregnancy interval, and maternal smoking, age, education, ethnicity, pre-pregnancy body mass index and height. The association between total maternal serum PCB levels and birthweight was not statistically significant. However, an interaction model indicated that maternal PCB concentrations were associated with lower birthweight in Romani boys. Based on the fitted regression model, the predicted birthweight of Romani boys at the 90th percentile of maternal PCBs (12.8 ng/mL) was 133 g lower than the predicted birthweight at the 10th percentile of maternal PCBs (1.6 ng/mL). This is a similar magnitude of effect to that observed for maternal smoking and birthweight. These results suggest that higher levels of PCBs in maternal blood sera may inhibit growth in boys, particularly in those already affected by social factors related to ethnicity. This study is consistent with previous findings that boys are more susceptible than girls to growth restriction induced by in utero organochlorine exposures, and further indicates that high PCBs may magnify the influence of social disadvantage in this vulnerable group of boys.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)202-213
Number of pages12
JournalPaediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2008


  • Birthweight
  • Ethnic origin
  • Interaction
  • PCBs
  • Susceptibility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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