Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Hold That Thought: Organochlorines May Alter Infant Attention Skills

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Hold That Thought: Organochlorines May Alter Infant Attention Skills

Article excerpt

From the mid-1940s on, a group of synthetic chemicals known as organochlorines (OCs) were used in industry and as pesticides. Because of evidence of human and environmental risks from exposure to some of these chemicals, the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970s banned the use of two--the pesticide DDT and a class of industrial chemicals known as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Despite the ban of more than 30 years, residues of these persistent, bioaccumulative chemicals are still found in human tissue. Now researchers have found evidence of an association between poor attention skills in early infancy and low-level prenatal exposure to PCBs and p,p'-DDE, the chief metabolite of DDT [EHP 116:666-673; Sagiv et al.].

Previous studies have shown associations between PCB exposure and attention deficits in adults and school-age children. In the current study, the authors sought to investigate whether these associations could be detected in early infancy using the Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale (NBAS) to assess infants' visual and auditory stimuli responses, motor tone and motor activity levels, and ability to regulate crying, alert, and sleep states. These behavioral items identify the infant's capacity for attention as well as abilities potentially associated with attention, such as state regulation and motor maturity.

The present study included infants born between 1993 and 1998 to mothers who lived near a PCB-contaminated harbor in New Bedford, Massachusetts. …

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