Objectives: While many studies have assessed the health impacts of PCDD/Fs and PCBs on animals and humans, long-term consequences
for especially adolescents, have not (yet) been well documented. This is certainly also true for the effects of PBDE exposure.
As part of a longitudinal cohort study, now well into its second decade, effects of perinatal and current PCDD/F exposure,
as well as current dl-PCB and PBDE exposures, on puberty, were assessed.
Study design: Prenatal, lactational and current
PCDD/F, dl-PCB and PBDE concentrations were determined using GC-MS. Pubertal development and growth were assessed by means
of physical examination and the Tanner scale. 33 Children (born between 1986 and 1991) consented to the current follow-up
study. Outcomes were evaluated using linear regression or the non parametric Spearman's correlation coefficient.
A delay in initiation of breast development was found in girls (n = 18) with higher prenatal (p = 0.023) and lactational PCDD/F
exposure (p = 0.048).
The males revealed a negative trend with age at first ejaculation. For other endpoints on puberty
and growth (pubic hair, axillary hair, genital stage, length, BMI, testicular volume, menarche) no significant relation was
found with any of the measured compounds.
Discussion and conclusion: A relation between prenatal PCDD/F exposure and later
initiation of breast development was seen. A Belgian study found a delay in breast development with higher current serum concentrations
of dioxin-like compounds. The initiation of puberty is a complex process and it is yet not clear how dioxin-like compounds
precisely affect this process prenatally. Further follow-up into adulthood is warranted, in order to detect the possibility
of developing malignancies and fertility problems.