2004 Progress Report: Perinatal PCB Exposure and Neuropsychological/Auditory Function

EPA Grant Number: R829390C002
Subproject: this is subproject number 002 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R829390
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: CECEHDPR - University of Illinois FRIENDS Children’s Environmental Health Center
Center Director: Schantz, Susan L.
Title: Perinatal PCB Exposure and Neuropsychological/Auditory Function
Investigators: Sweeney, Anne , Peck, Jennifer , Persky, Vicky , Schantz, Susan L.
Institution: Texas A & M University , University of Illinois at Urbana
Current Institution: Texas A & M University , The University of Texas at Houston , University of Illinois at Urbana
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: October 17, 2001 through October 16, 2002
Project Period Covered by this Report: October 17, 2003 through October 16, 2004
RFA: Centers for Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research (2001) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Health Effects , Children's Health , Health


The objective of this research project is to examine the patterns of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and methylmercury (MeHg) exposures (occurring through consumption of contaminated sport-caught fish) during gestation and their effects on neuropsychological and auditory function among the children born to a cohort of Hmong and Laotian women.

Progress Summary:

The protocol has been modified to accommodate cultural sensitivities that prohibited following certain aspects of the previous protocol. This enabled us to begin recruiting currently pregnant women and their partners, as well as continue to enroll preconception couples. Contact with the Women, Infants and Children’s Clinic in Green Bay, Wisconsin, to assist with the identification of pregnant Hmong and Lao women from the community has been initiated, and potential recruitment protocols are being evaluated. We are continuing to enroll in Green Bay and Appleton and to form partnerships with the various hospitals in these areas for the collection of biological specimens at the time of delivery.

Menstrual Cycle Tracking and Pregnancy Surveillance

This objective of this component of the project is to follow all female participants prospectively to track menstrual cycle characteristics and to identify early pregnancies. To collect these data, special consideration has been given to the development of a data collection instrument that considers the population’s cultural beliefs and customs. Among these customs is a tendency not to acknowledge pregnancy verbally until late in gestation. Additionally, many of our participants do not communicate in English or read and write in their native language. The revised protocol involves visits to the home once every 2 months to conduct a urine pregnancy test to identify early pregnancy. Once pregnancy is determined, the women will be visited every 2 months at home to collect information on a select number of key variables describing potential exposure changes during pregnancy.

New Investigator Activities

Dr. Peck, the new investigator, was successful in obtaining additional funding to conduct two supplemental pilot studies. The Fox River Environment and Diet Study, also known as FRIENDS, cohort is exposed to environmental contaminants through consumption of fish from highly contaminated local waters. In addition to PCB and mercury contamination, there is concern about additional environmental toxic agents that may be present in fish from the Fox River, as there is heavy industrial activity that occurs along this body of water. The objective of both pilot studies is to generate preliminary exposure assessment data to support a grant application to evaluate environmental exposures and adverse reproductive outcomes in the established Asian American cohort. The first proposal was submitted to the Texas A&M University Center for Environmental and Rural Health with the aim of quantifying and describing the concentration of urinary phthalates and organophosphate metabolites in 20 Hmong and Laotian couples of childbearing age (n = 40). The secondary aim of this pilot study is to develop and pretest a culturally appropriate and sensitive survey instrument to identify relevant sources of phthalate and organophosphate exposures in the study population. The second application was submitted to the Texas A&M Women’s Interdisciplinary Health Research Program. By collecting three urine samples at 2-month intervals from 25 Hmong and Laotian women (n = 75 samples), the study proposes to assess the variability of urinary phthalate esters over time in reproductive-aged women. The protocols for these pilot projects currently are nearing the implementation phase.


A 24-minute educational video in Hmong and Laotian, with closed captioning in English, was completed recently for use in the intervention arm of the project. The video teaches key concepts about contaminants in fish, instructs viewers on how to use the Hmong and Lao language fishing advisories developed by the project, demonstrates how to fillet a fish to remove the skin and fat, which contain most of the PCBs, and provides suggestions and recipes for the best ways to prepare fish (grilling, broiling, or steaming, which let the fat drip away).

Lessons Learned Papers

Several members of the research team have participated in an effort by the Children’s Centers to provide input to the National Children’s Study planning team. Dr. Sweeney has collaborated with other Children’s Centers that are enrolling longitudinal birth cohorts to develop a methods paper discussing methodological issues encountered in the research and Dr. Schantz has collaborated with other Children’s Centers that are conducting neurodevelopmental studies in children to develop a paper discussing issues related to longitudinal neuropsychological assessment of infants and children. Both manuscripts are currently under review and will be published as part of a series in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Future Activities:

The investigators did not report any future activities.

Journal Articles on this Report : 1 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other subproject views: All 5 publications 3 publications in selected types All 3 journal articles
Other center views: All 38 publications 22 publications in selected types All 21 journal articles
Type Citation Sub Project Document Sources
Journal Article Sweeney AM, Peck JD, Gasior DM, Gardiner J, Schantz SL. Perinatal PCBs and mercury exposure and neurodevelopmental effects. Epidemiology 2004;15(4):S147-S148. R829390 (Final)
R829390C002 (2004)
  • Abstract: LWW-Abstract
  • Supplemental Keywords:

    children’s health, disease and cumulative effects, ecological risk assessment, susceptibility, sensitive population, toxicology, Fox River, PCBs, exposure assessment, heavy metals, methylmercury, neurotoxicity, pesticides, fish consumption,, RFA, Health, Scientific Discipline, PHYSICAL ASPECTS, ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, Toxicology, Health Risk Assessment, Risk Assessments, Susceptibility/Sensitive Population/Genetic Susceptibility, Physical Processes, Children's Health, genetic susceptability, Molecular Biology/Genetics, Risk Assessment, developmental neurotoxicology, neurotoxic, sensitive populations, childhood cancer, biomarkers, animal model, developmental effects, exposure, perinatal exposure, Human Health Risk Assessment, children, assessment of exposure, children's vulnerablity, residential populations, methylmercury, PCB, neurodevelopmental toxicity, human exposure, neurobehavioral effects, auditory function, biological markers, toxics, environmental hazard exposures

    Relevant Websites:

    http://www.cvm.uiuc.edu/vb/friends_center/ Exit

    Progress and Final Reports:

    Original Abstract
  • Final

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R829390    CECEHDPR - University of Illinois FRIENDS Children’s Environmental Health Center

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R829390C001 Neurobehavioral Effects of PCBs and Methylmercury in Rats
    R829390C002 Perinatal PCB Exposure and Neuropsychological/Auditory Function
    R829390C003 FRIENDS Analytical Toxicology Core Facility
    R829390C004 Developmental Effects of PCBs and Methylmercury