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Final Progress Reports: Harvard School of Public Health: In utero Exposure to Polychlorinated Biphenyls, Pesticides and Metals in Relation to Cognitive Function in Childhood

Superfund Research Program

In utero Exposure to Polychlorinated Biphenyls, Pesticides and Metals in Relation to Cognitive Function in Childhood

Project Leader: Susan A. Korrick
Grant Number: P42ES005947
Funding Period: 1995 - 2006

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Final Progress Reports

Year:   2005  1999 

The goal of this project is to study the association of low-level prenatal PCB, DDE, and metal exposures with cognitive and behavioral development in school age (8- to 10-year-old) children residing in communities adjacent to a PCB-contaminated harbor and Superfund site (New Bedford Harbor, Massachusetts).  Dr. Korrick’s team has completed assessments of 598 (80% of eligible) school-age children whose development has been followed since birth. 

Notable accomplishments of this work include the successful longitudinal retention of this sociodemographically diverse (30% non-white, 35% low-income) cohort of children who may be particularly at risk for environmental contaminant exposure and associated developmental toxicities and demonstration of:

  1. The importance of local factors (PCB congener distribution in contaminated Harbor sediments, maternal consumption of local food, and Superfund site dredging activities) in determining PCB exposure in the study community
  2. Consistent adverse behavioral associations (particularly behaviors associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD) of early life exposure to PCBs
  3. Poorer memory and learning skills particularly in association with early life DDE exposure
  4. Increased susceptibility to developmental toxicities of early life PCB exposure among children from sociodemographically disadvantaged environments.

These findings are notable because PCB and DDE exposures in this population are low and likely representative of contemporaneous general population samples.  Associations of these low-level exposures with possible increased risk of learning and behavioral disorders (e.g., ADHD) is of particular importance given the apparent, and largely unexplained, increasing prevalence of such disorders among school age children and their substantial associated public health costs.

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