A Cohort study evaluation of maternal PCB exposure related to time to pregnancy in daughters

Gennings, Chris; Carrico, Caroline; Factor-Litvak, Pam; Krigbaum, Nickilou; Cirillo, Piera; Cohn, Barbara

Background: Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) remain ubiquitous environmental contaminants. Developmental exposures are suspected to impact reproduction. Analysis of mixtures of PCBs may be problematic as components have a complex correlation structure, and along with limited sample sizes, standard regression strategies are problematic. We compared the results of a novel, empirical method to those based on categorization of PCB compounds by (1) hypothesized biological activity previously proposed and widely applied, and (2) degree of ortho- substitution (mono, di, tri), in a study of the relation of maternal serum PCBs and daughter’s time to pregnancy. Methods: We measured PCBs in maternal serum samples collected in the early postpartum in 289 daughters in the Child Health and Development Studies birth cohort. We queried time to pregnancy in these daughters 28–31 years later. We applied a novel weighted quantile sum approach to find the bad-actor compounds in the PCB mixture found in maternal serum. The approach includes empirical estimation of the weights through a bootstrap step which accounts for the variation in the estimated weights. Results: Bootstrap analyses indicated the dominant functionality groups associated with longer TTP were the dioxin-like, anti-estrogenic group (average weight, 22%) and PCBs not previously classified by biological activity (54%). In contrast, the unclassified PCBs were not important in the association with shorter TTP, where the anti-estrogenic groups and the PB-inducers group played a more important role (60% and 23%, respectively). The highly chlorinated PCBs (average weight, 89%) were mostly associated with longer TTP; in contrast, the degree of chlorination was less discriminating for shorter TTP. Finally, PCB 56 was associated with the strongest relationship with TTP with a weight of 47%. Conclusions: Our empirical approach found some associations previously identified by two classification schemes, but also identified other bad actors. This empirical method can generate hypotheses about mixture effects and mechanisms and overcomes some of the limitations of standard regression techniques.


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Environmental Health

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Academic Units
BioMed Central
Published Here
September 9, 2014


Endocrine disruptors, Polychlorinated biphenyls, Prenatal exposure