Prenatal accumulation of polychlorinated biphenyls and tobacco-specific carcinogens in offspring of active and passive smoking mothers

GM Lackmann.

Heinrich Heine University, Duesseldorf, Duesseldorf, Duesseldorf Germany

AIM: Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are ubiquitous compounds that have tumor promoting properties if applied together with tobacco-specific carcinogens, especially tobacco-specific nitrosamines. Since we were recently able to demonstrate the transplacental transfer of tobacco-specific carcinogens in humans, it was the aim of the present study to investigate whether parental smoking by itself would also increase the prenatal uptake of PCBs. METHODS: With the informed consent of the parents, cord blood samples were collected from 200 full-term neonates before the first oral feeding. Six PCB congeners (IUPAC Nos. 28, 52, 101, 138, 153, and 180) were analyzed with capillary gas chromatography with ECD detection. Information about parental smoking behavior, the geographic origin of the parents, and their actual and previous working places were recorded. We composed three study groups for statistical analyses: Active smoking mothers (n = 73); passive smoking mothers (n = 46); and non-smoking families (n = 81). RESULTS: The neonates born to active smoking mothers had the highest PCB concentrations as compared with the children of passive or non-smoking mothers. These differences were statistically significant (p<0.0001) in case of all PCB congeners and total PCB (sum of PCB 138, 153, and 180). The newborns of passive smoking mothers had higher PCB concentrations than the children of non-smoking families, but lower values than those of active smoking mothers. These differences also were statistically significant for all compounds. CONCLUSIONS: It is concluded that active and passive maternal smoking increases the neonatal burden with PCBs in humans. Therefore, the fetus is exposed to PCBs together with tobacco-specific carcinogens during complete intrauterine life, which may lead, as could be shown in animal studies, to long-lasting adverse biological effects.

KEY WORDS: Organochlorine compounds, tobacco-specific nitrosamines, prenatal carcinogenesis, environmental toxicology, environmental tobacco smoke, smoking during pregnancy.

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Paper presented at the International Symposium on Predictive Oncology and Intervention Strategies; Paris, France; February 9 - 12, 2002; in the section on Environment and Occupation.