Background. Airborne polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) are widespread urban pollutants that can bind to DNA to form PAH-DNA adducts. Prenatal PAH exposure measured by personal monitoring has been linked to cognitive deficits in childhood in a prospective study conducted by the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH).
Objectives. We measured PAH-DNA and other bulky aromatic adducts in umbilical cord white blood cells using the 32P-postlabeling assay to determine the association between this molecular dosimeter and behavioral/attention problems in childhood. Methods. Children born to nonsmoking African-American and Dominican women residing in New York City (NYC) were followed from in utero to 7-8 years of age. At two time points prior to age 8 (mean ages 4.8 years and 7years), child behavior was assessed using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). To estimate and test the association between adducts and behavioral outcomes, both CBCL continuous raw scores and dichotomized T-scores were analyzed.
Results. Higher cord adducts were associated with higher symptom scores of Anxious/Depressed at 4.8 years and Attention Problems at 4.8 and 7 years, and with Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) oriented Anxiety Problems at the 4.8 years. Conclusions. These results suggest that PAH exposure, measured by DNA adducts, may adversely affect child behavior, potentially affecting school performance.