Exposure to methylmercury was shown to decrease neural stem cell populations, whereas aerobic fitness has beneficial effects on the adult brain that relies on improved neurogenesis in the hippocampus.
To examine the association between aerobic fitness and neurocognitive outcomes at young adult age, along with the potential moderating effect of prenatal exposure to methylmercury.
At age 22 years, 262 members of a Faroese birth cohort, established in 1986-1987, underwent a graded exercise test of aerobic fitness to measure maximal oxygen uptake (VO2Max). Their prenatal methylmercury exposure had been assessed from the mercury concentration in cord blood. We estimated cross-sectional associations between VO2Max and multiple measures of neurocognitive function. In addition, we compared groups with low and high prenatal methylmercury exposure.
A one standard deviation (SD) increase in VO2Max was associated with better scores on short-term memory and cognitive processing speed by 0.21 SD (95% CI: -0.04, 0.46) and 0.28 SD (95% CI: 0.02, 0.54), respectively. In the group with lower prenatal methylmercury exposure, a one SD increase in VO2Max was associated with increased scores on cognitive processing speed by 0.45 SD (95% CI: 0.08, 0.81) and with a slightly lesser benefit in short-term memory. No such association was observed in the group with high prenatal methylmercury exposure.
Higher aerobic capacity was associated with better performance in short-term memory and processing speed. However, prenatal methylmercury exposure seemed to attenuate these positive associations.
Background: Breast-feeding may affect the risk of developing allergy during childhood and may also cause exposure to immunotoxicants, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which are of concern as marine pollutants in the Faroe Islands and the Arctic region. Objectives: The objective was to assess whether sensitization and development of allergic disease was associated with duration of breast-feeding and prenatal or postnatal exposures to PCBs and methylmercury. Methods: A cohort of 656 singleton births was formed in the Faroe Islands during 1999-2001. Duration of breast-feeding and history of asthma and atopic dermatitis were recorded at clinical examinations at ages 5 and 7 years. PCB and mercury concentrations were determined in blood samples obtained at parturition and at follow-up. Serum from 464 children (71%) at age 7 years was analyzed for total IgE and grass-specific IgE. Results: The total IgE concentration in serum at age 7 years was positively associated both with the concomitant serum PCB concentration and with the duration of breastfeeding. However, the effect only of the latter was substantially attenuated in a multivariate analysis. A raised grass-specific IgE concentration compatible with sensitization was positively associated with the duration of breast-feeding and inversely associated with prenatal methylmercury exposure. However, a history of asthma or atopic dermatitis was not associated with the duration of breast-feeding, but children with atopic dermatitis had lower prenatal PCB exposures than non-allergic children. Conclusions: These findings suggest that developmental exposure to immunotoxicants may both increase and decrease the risk of allergic disease, and that associations between breast-feeding and subsequent allergic disease in children may, at least in part, reflect lactational exposure to immunotoxic food contaminants.
Following an official recommendation in the Faroe Islands that women should abstain from eating mercury-contaminated pilot whale meat, a survey was carried out to obtain information on dietary habits and hair samples for mercury analysis. A letter was sent to all 1180 women aged 26-30 years who resided within the Faroes, and the women were contacted again 1 year later. A total of 415 women responded to the first letter; the second letter resulted in 145 repeat hair samples and 125 new responses. Questionnaire results showed that Faroese women, on average, consumed whale meat for dinner only once every second month, but the frequency and meal size depended on the availability of whale in the community. The geometric mean hair-mercury concentration at the first survey was higher in districts with available whale than in those without (3.03 vs. 1.88 microg/g; P=0.001). The mercury concentration also depended on the frequency of whale meat dinners and on the consumption of dried whale meat. The 36 women who did not eat whale meat at all had a geometric mean hair-mercury concentration of 1.28 microg/g. At the time of the second survey, the geometric mean had decreased to 1.77 microg/g (P
Seafood consumption is the primary route of methylmercury (MeHg) exposure for most populations. Inherent uncertainties in dietary survey data point to the need for an empirical tool to confirm exposure sources. We therefore explore the utility of Hg stable isotope ratios in human hair as a new method for discerning MeHg exposure sources. We characterized Hg isotope fractionation between humans and their diets using hair samples from Faroese whalers exposed to MeHg predominantly from pilot whales. We observed an increase of 1.75‰ in d(202)Hg values between pilot whale muscle tissue and Faroese whalers' hair but no mass-independent fractionation. We found a similar offset in d(202)Hg between consumed seafood and hair samples from Gulf of Mexico recreational anglers who are exposed to lower levels of MeHg from a variety of seafood sources. An isotope mixing model was used to estimate individual MeHg exposure sources and confirmed that both ?(199)Hg and d(202)Hg values in human hair can help identify dietary MeHg sources. Variability in isotopic signatures among coastal fish consumers in the Gulf of Mexico likely reflects both differences in environmental sources of MeHg to coastal fish and uncertainty in dietary recall data. Additional data are needed to fully refine this approach for individuals with complex seafood consumption patterns.
BACKGROUND: Epidemiological documentation of endocrine disruption is complicated by imprecise exposure assessment, especially when exposures are mixed. Even if the estrogenic activity of all compounds were known, the combined effect of possible additive and/or inhibiting interaction of xenoestrogens in a biological sample may be difficult to predict from chemical analysis of single compounds alone. Thus, analysis of mixtures allows evaluation of combined effects of chemicals each present at low concentrations. METHODS: We have developed an optimized in vitro E-Screen test to assess the combined functional estrogenic response of human serum. The xenoestrogens in serum were separated from endogenous steroids and pharmaceuticals by solid-phase extraction followed by fractionation by high-performance liquid chromatography. After dissolution of the isolated fraction in ethanol-DMSO, the reconstituted extract was added with estrogen-depleted fetal calf serum to MCF-7 cells, the growth of which is stimulated by estrogen. After a 6-day incubation on a microwell plate, cell proliferation was assessed and compared with the effect of a 17-beta-estradiol standard. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: To determine the applicability of this approach, we assessed the estrogenicity of serum samples from 30 pregnant and 60 non-pregnant Danish women thought to be exposed only to low levels of endocrine disruptors. We also studied 211 serum samples from pregnant Faroese women, whose marine diet included whale blubber that contain a high concentration of persistent halogenated pollutants. The estrogenicity of the serum from Danish controls exceeded the background in 22.7 % of the cases, while the same was true for 68.1 % of the Faroese samples. The increased estrogenicity response did not correlate with the lipid-based concentrations of individual suspected endocrine disruptors in the Faroese samples. When added along with the estradiol standard, an indication of an enhanced estrogenic response was found in most cases. Thus, the in vitro estrogenicity response offers a promising and feasible approach for an aggregated exposure assessment for xenoestrogens in serum.
Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) are highly persistent chemicals that might be associated with asthma and allergy, but the associations remain unclear. Therefore, this study examined whether pre- and postnatal PFAS exposure was associated with childhood asthma and allergy. Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination in early life may have a protective effect against asthma and allergy, and MMR vaccination is therefore taken into account when evaluating these associations. In a cohort of Faroese children whose mothers were recruited during pregnancy, serum concentrations of five PFASs - Perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS), perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), and perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA) - were measured at three timepoints (maternal serum in pregnancy week 34-36 and child serum at ages 5 and 13 years) and their association with immunoglobulin E (IgE) (cord blood and at age 7 years) and asthma/allergic diseases (questionnaires at ages 5 and 13 years and skin prick test at age 13 years) was determined. A total of 559 children were included in the analyses. Interactions with MMR vaccination were evaluated. Among 22 MMR-unvaccinated children, higher levels of the five PFASs at age 5 years were associated with increased odds of asthma at ages 5 and 13. The associations were reversed among MMR-vaccinated children. Prenatal PFAS exposure was not associated with childhood asthma or allergic diseases regardless of MMR vaccination status. In conclusion, PFAS exposure at age 5 was associated with increased risk of asthma among a small subgroup of MMR-unvaccinated children but not among MMR-vaccinated children. While PFAS exposure may impact immune system functions, this study suggests that MMR vaccination might be a potential effect-modifier.
Department of Environmental Medicine, Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark (JLT-P, HRA, PG, and TKJ); the Research Unit for Dietary Studies, Institute of Preventive Medicine, Copenhagen University Hospitals, Frederiksberg, Denmark (JLT-P and BLH); the National Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark (BLH); the Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating Disorders, Sydney Medical School, Sydney, Australia (BLH); the Department of Occupational Medicine and Public Health, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands (US); and the Department of Environmental Medicine, Faroese Hospital System, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands (PW).
Chemicals with endocrine-disrupting abilities may act as obesogens and interfere with the body's natural weight-control mechanisms, especially if exposure occurs during prenatal life.
We examined the association between prenatal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and p,p'-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE) and subsequent obesity at 5 and 7 y of age.
From 1997 to 2000, 656 pregnant Faroese women were recruited. PCB and DDE were measured in maternal serum and breast milk, and children's weight, height, and waist circumference (WC) were measured at clinical examinations at 5 and 7 y of age. The change in body mass index (BMI) from 5 to 7 y of age was calculated. Analyses were performed by using multiple linear regression models for girls and boys separately, taking into account maternal prepregnancy BMI.
For 7-y-old girls who had overweight mothers, PCB was associated with increased BMI (ß = 2.07, P = 0.007), and PCB and DDE were associated with an increased change in BMI from 5 to 7 y of age (PCB: ß = 1.23, P = 0.003; DDE: ß = 1.11, P = 0.008). No association was observed with BMI in girls with normal-weight mothers. PCB was associated with increased WC in girls with overweight mothers (ß = 2.48, P = 0.001) and normal-weight mothers (ß = 1.25, P = 0.04); DDE was associated with increased WC only in girls with overweight mothers (ß = 2.21, P = 0.002). No associations were observed between PCB or DDE and BMI in 5-y-old girls. For boys, no associations were observed.
Results suggest that prenatal exposure to PCB and DDE may play a role for subsequent obesity development. Girls whose mothers have a high prepregnancy BMI seem most affected.
Adequate thyroid function during pregnancy is essential for optimal fetal growth. Gestational exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) can negatively affect birth size and disrupt maternal and neonatal thyroid function, although the interrelationship is unclear.
We aimed to quantify the associations between maternal serum-PFAS concentrations and birth weight, birth length, and cranial circumference. We also aimed to estimate associations between PFAS and thyroid hormone (TH) concentrations, thereby elucidating whether THs potentially mediate the associations between PFAS concentrations and birth size.
We studied a population-based prospective cohort of 172 mother-singleton pairs from the Faroe Islands. Twelve PFAS were measured in maternal serum obtained at 34 weeks of gestation. THs were measured in maternal and cord serum. Associations between PFAS concentrations and birth size and TH concentrations were estimated using multivariable linear regressions. Sex-stratified analyses along with a mediation analysis were performed to estimate potential mediating effects of THs in the association between PFAS and birth outcomes.
Several PFASs were negatively associated with birth weight, length, and head circumference, and a general positive association between maternal serum-PFASs and cord serum-thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH; also known as thyrotropin) was found. For instance, a doubling in perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was associated with a 53% (95% CI, 18%-99%) and 40% (95% CI, 8%-81%) increases in TSH concentrations, respectively. There was little evidence of sexually dimorphic associations. Overall, THs were not found to mediate associations between PFASs and birth size.
In this study, several PFASs were negatively associated with birth size and increased THs; however, this did not explain lower birth weight among children exposed to PFAS.
The existing literature on the association between measles vaccination and subsequent risk of allergic disease is inconclusive. The aim of this study was, therefore, to determine whether measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination administered in early childhood was associated with asthma and allergic diseases at ages 5, 7 and 13 years in a birth cohort.
In the Faroe Islands, 640 children were followed from birth. Follow-up examinations at ages 5, 7 and 13 years included a physical examination and a maternal questionnaire about the child's health. At age 7, total and grass-specific IgE was quantified in the child's serum, and at age 13, the children underwent skin prick tests (SPT). The child's vaccination card was reviewed at examinations.
At age 5, 533 of 555 children had been vaccinated for MMR. After confounder adjustment we found early life MMR vaccination to be associated with a two-third reduction in the odds of asthma (OR: 0.33, 95% CI: 0.12; 0.90) and hypersensitivity/allergy (OR: 0.32, 95% CI: 0.11; 0.88) at age 5, and the substantially decreased odds of asthma were replicated at age 13 (OR: 0.22, 95% CI: 0.08; 0.56). At age 7, serum total IgE was reduced by 62.8% (CI 95%: -84.3%; -11.9%) in the vaccinated children. MMR vaccination was not significantly associated with allergic rhinoconjuctivitis symptoms, eczema, or SPT reactions at age 13.
MMR vaccination early in life may have a protective effect against allergy at least up to age 7 and against asthma through age 13 years. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Breast-feeding has been linked to slowed postnatal growth. Although the basis for this "weanling's dilemma" is unclear, environmental contaminants in human milk may be of relevance. We studied a Faroese birth cohort of 182 singleton children, born at term in 1994-95. Concentrations of mercury in cord blood and of polychlorinated biphenyls in maternal milk were measured, and duration of breast-feeding was recorded. At 18 months, children who had been exclusively breast-fed for at least 6 months weighed 0.59 kg less [95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.03, 1.16 kg] and were 1.50 cm [95% CI = 0.52, 2.47 cm] shorter than those not breast-fed. However, calculated transfer of contaminants from human milk fully explained the attenuated growth. Irrespective of duration of breast-feeding, a doubling of the mercury concentration in cord blood was associated with a decrease in weight at 18 months by 0.19 kg (95% CI = 0.03, 0.35 kg) and in height by 0.26 cm (95% CI = -0.02, 0.55 cm). Weight and height at 42 months showed the same tendencies, but the main effect occurred before 18 months of age. Thus, in communities with increased contaminant exposures, risks associated with lactational transfer of toxicants to the infant must be considered when judging the benefits of prolonged breast-feeding.