Boys’ Growth May Be Stunted By PCBs, Dioxin

Increased exposure to <"">polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins could be reducing growth in peripubertal boys over a period of three years, said Med Page Today, citing a Russian study that appears in the January issue of the journal, Pediatrics.

PCBs—which have been making headlines in recent weeks for their part in contaminating NY City’s Newton Creek and Hudson River, in addition to NY City schools—are significantly problematic because they do not easily degrade and do bioaccumulate infiltrating plants, crops, fish, and small organisms, ultimately reaching those who eat these products. This means nearly every human being carries some PCB in his/her body, which can also be passed from mothers to children during pregnancy and in breast milk. PCBs can remain in our bodies for many years; the longer we live, the more these toxins build in our systems, increasing in strength over time. Dioxins are also very toxic and ubiquitous compounds that are significant environmental pollutants. In the U.S., dioxins appear to be connected to antibacterial soap.

The research looked at 473 11-year-old boys who live in a particularly polluted town in Russia, said Med Page Today. The boys had lower body mass indices and reduced height velocity and those figures increased with increased PCB serum levels, said CNN, citing the research. Some studies have pointed to increased risks with chemical exposure to endocrine systems, CNN pointed out. The boys live in Chapaevsk, a town that is heavily contaminated with chemicals such as PCBs and dioxin, which originate from agricultural and industrial sources, said CNN.

Chlorinated chemicals, said CNN, have been associated with psychosocial and cognitive issues, changes in puberty, short stature in adulthood, and risks for problems such as 2 diabetes and hip fracture, according to the research, which looked at the boys from 2003 to 2005.

Most of the boys—90 percent—were breastfed and all had normal weights at birth; the boys were eight and nine at the start of the study, said CNN.

The researchers ensured the boys received yearly physical examinations and also collected serum levels on several chemicals, such as a variety of PCBs, dioxin, and dibenzofurans. Results were “used to calculate lipid-adjusted scores for dioxin-like compounds and PCB concentrations,” said Med Page Today. The team found that chemical serum levels were broad, “with medians that greatly exceeded those reported in the U.S. and Europe,” quoted Med Page Today. “The pattern of observed associations suggests that PCBs may have a greater effect than dioxins on childhood growth, especially linear growth,” the researchers added.

The researchers said their measurements were conducted during the peripubertal not the perinatal period. “Thus, we may have missed a more susceptible critical window. However, the peripubertal concentrations of serum dioxins and PCBs may be a surrogate for prenatal exposure, because childhood levels often track closely with prenatal levels, especially in a primarily breast fed population such as ours,” Burns and colleagues wrote, quoted Med Page Today. The researchers intend to follow the boys’ growth to understand if growth changes are connected with body composition changes that could lead to diseases later in their life, noted Med Page Today.

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