BACKGROUND: Organohalogen compounds (OHCs) are known to have neurotoxic effects on the developing brain.
OBJECTIVE: We investigated the influence of prenatal exposure to OHCs, including brominated flame retardants, on motor, cognitive, and behavioral outcome in healthy children of school age.
METHODS: This study was part of the prospective Groningen infant COMPARE (Comparison of Exposure-Effect Pathways to Improve the Assessment of Human Health Risks of Complex Environmental Mixtures of Organohalogens) study. It included 62 children in whose mothers the following compounds had been determined in the 35th week of pregnancy: 2,2'-bis-(4 chlorophenyl)1,1'-dichloroethene, pentachlorophenol (PCP), polychlorinated biphenyl congener 153 (PCB-153), 4-hydroxy-2,3,3',4',5-pentachlorobiphenyl (4OH-CB-107),4OH-CB-146,4OH-CB-187,2,2',4,4'-tetrabromodipheryl ether (BDE-47), BDE-99, BDE-100, BDE-153, BDE-154, and hexabromocy-clododecane. Thyroid hormones were determined in umbilical cord blood. When the children were 5-6 years of age, we assessed their neuropsychological functioning: motor performance (coordination, fine motor skills), cognition (intelligence, visual perception, visuomotor integration, inhibitory control, verbal memory, and attention), and behavior.
RESULTS: Brominated flame retardants correlated with worse fine manipulative abilities, worse attention, better coordination, better visual perception, and better behavior. Chlorinated OHCs correlated with less choreiform, dyskinesia. Hydroxylated polychlorinated biphenyls correlated with worse fine manipulative abilities, better attention, and better visual perception. The wood protective agent (PCP) correlated with worse coordination, less sensory integrity, worse attention, and worse visuomotor integration.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results demonstrate for the first time that transplacental transfer of polybrominated flame retardants is associated with the development of children at school age. Because of the widespread use of these compounds, especially in the United States, where concentrations in the environment are four times higher than in Europe, these results cause serious concern.