Maternal and paternal serum concentrations of persistent organic pollutants and the secondary sex ratio: A population-based preconception cohort study

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Recent declines in the secondary sex ratio (SSR), defined as the ratio of males to females at birth, in some industrialized countries may be attributed to exposure to environmental toxicants such as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). This study aimed to evaluate the association of couples’ preconception exposure to POPs with the SSR. The study cohort comprised 235 couples who were enrolled in the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment (LIFE) Study between 2005 and 2009 prior to conception and prospectively followed through delivery of a singleton birth. Upon enrollment, couples’ serum concentrations (ng/g) were measured for 9 organochlorine pesticides, 1 polybrominated biphenyl, 10 polybrominated diphenyl ethers, and 36 polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Birth outcome data including infant sex were collected upon delivery. Modified Poisson regression models were used to estimate the relative risks (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of a male birth for each chemical. Of the 56 POPs examined, maternal PCB 128 and paternal hexachlorobenzene were significantly associated with a female excess (RRs, 0.75 [95% CI, 0.60–0.94] and 0.81 [95% CI, 0.68–0.97] per 1 SD increase in log-transformed serum chemical concentrations, respectively), whereas maternal mirex and paternal PCB 128 and p,p′-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene were significantly associated with a male excess (RR range, 1.10–1.22 per 1 SD increase in log-transformed serum chemical concentrations). After adjusting for multiple comparisons, only maternal mirex remained significantly associated with the SSR. This exploratory study on multiple classes of POPs demonstrated no conclusive evidence on the association between parental preconception exposure to POPs and the SSR.HIGHLIGHTSRecent declines in the SSR in some countries may be attributed to exposure to POPs.Maternal PCB 128 and paternal HCB were associated with a female excess.Maternal mirex and paternal PCB 128 and p,p′-DDE were associated with a male excess.These findings await corroboration given the exploratory design of this study.

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