Polychlorinated Biphenyl Serum Levels in Pregnant Subjects With Diabetes

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OBJECTIVEPolychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are persistent pollutants that are ubiquitous in the food chain; detectable amounts are in the blood of nearly everyone. Their effect on humans at background levels of exposure is an area of active investigation. Increased blood levels of dioxin (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin), a PCB-like compound, have recently been reported among subjects with diabetes, suggesting that PCB levels could be similarly elevated. To test this hypothesis, we examined a group of pregnant women whose serum PCB levels had been measured and whose diabetes status had been previously recorded.RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODSUsing stored serum from a large birth cohort study, we conducted a cross-sectional study of 2,245 pregnant women, of whom 44 had diabetes (primarily type 1) and 2,201 were control subjects.RESULTSThe adjusted mean serum level of PCBs among the subjects with diabetes was 30% higher than in the control subjects (P = 0.0002), and the relationship of PCB level to adjusted odds of diabetes was linear.CONCLUSIONSThe possibility exists that PCBs and diabetes are causality related; alternatively, the pharmacokinetics of PCBs could be altered among patients with diabetes. At any event, if the association is replicated in other studies, increased serum levels of PCBs in subjects with diabetes or their offspring may put them at increased risk of PCB-induced changes in thyroid metabolism or neurodevelopment.

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