Prenatal exposure to PBDEs and neurodevelopment

Background: Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are widely used flame retardant compounds that are persistent and bioaccumulative and therefore have become ubiquitous environment contaminants. Animal studies suggest that prenatal PBDE exposure may result in adverse neurodevelopmental effects.

Objective: In a longitudinal cohort initiated after 11 September 2001, including 329 mothers who delivered in one of three hospitals in lower Manhattan, New York, we examined prenatal PBDE exposure and neurodevelopment when their children were 12–48 and 72 months of age.

Methods: We analyzed 210 cord blood specimens for selected PBDE congeners and assessed neurodevelopmental effects in the children at 12–48 and 72 months of age; 118, 117, 114, 104, and 96 children with available cord PBDE measurements were assessed at 12, 24, 36, 48, and 72 months, respectively. We used multivariate regression analyses to evaluate the associations between concentrations of individual PBDE congeners and neurodevelopmental indices.

Results: Median cord blood concentrations of PBDE congeners 47, 99, and 100 were 11.2, 3.2, and 1.4 ng/g lipid, respectively. After adjustment for potential confounders, children with higher concentrations of BDEs 47, 99, or 100 scored lower on tests of mental and physical development at 12–48 and 72 months. Associations were significant for 12-month Psychomotor Development Index (BDE-47), 24-month Mental Development Index (MDI) (BDE-47, 99, and 100), 36-month MDI (BDE-100), 48-month full-scale and verbal IQ (BDE-47, 99, and 100) and performance IQ (BDE-100), and 72-month performance IQ (BDE-100).

Conclusions: This epidemiologic study demonstrates neurodevelopmental effects in relation to cord blood PBDE concentrations. Confirmation is needed in other longitudinal studies.

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