Prenatal and postnatal polybrominated diphenyl ether exposure and visual spatial abilities in children

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Abstract

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are associated with impaired visual spatial abilities in toxicological studies, but no epidemiologic study has investigated PBDEs and visual spatial abilities in children. The Health Outcomes and Measures of the Environment Study, a prospective birth cohort (2003–2006, Cincinnati, OH), was used to examine prenatal and childhood PBDEs and visual spatial abilities in 199 children. PBDEs were measured at 16±3 weeks gestation and at 1, 2, 3, 5, and 8 years using gas chromatography/isotope dilution high-resolution mass spectrometry. We used the Virtual Morris Water Maze to measure visual spatial abilities at 8 years. In covariate-adjusted models, 10-fold increases in BDE-47, −99, and −100 at 5 years were associated with shorter completion times by 5.2 s (95% Confidence Interval [CI] −9.3, −1.1), 4.5 s (95% CI −8.1, −0.9), and 4.7 s (95% CI −9.0, −0.3), respectively. However, children with higher BDE-153 at 3 years had longer completion times (β=5.4 s, 95% CI −0.3, 11.1). Prenatal PBDEs were associated with improved visual spatial memory retention, with children spending a higher percentage of their search path in the correct quadrant. Child sex modified some associations between PBDEs and visual spatial learning. Longer path lengths were observed among males with increased BDE-47 at 2 and 3 years, while females had shorter paths. In conclusion, prenatal and postnatal BDE-28, −47, −99, and −100 at 5 and 8 years were associated with improved visual spatial abilities, whereas a pattern of impairments in visual spatial learning was noted with early childhood BDE-153 concentrations.

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