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Meconium and neurotoxicants: searching for a prenatal exposure timing


Background: Exposure to organochlorine compounds (OCs) has been a subject of interest in recent years, given their potential neurotoxicity. Meconium is easily available and accumulates neurotoxicants and/or metabolites from the 12th week of gestation.

Aims: To determine whether neurotoxicants, specifically OCs, could be detected in serially collected meconium, and to compare the results with those obtained in cord blood samples.

Methods: A sample of cord blood and three serial stool samples were analysed in 10 newborns. Pentachlorobenzene (PeCB), hexachlorobenzene (HCB), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane (p,p′-DDT) and its metabolite dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethylene (p,p′-DDE), and hexachlorocyclohexane isomers (α-, β-, γ-, and δ-HCH) were analysed by gas chromatography.

Results: From serial stool collection and analysis in newborns, there was an increase in the concentrations of HCB, p,p′-DDE, PCBs, and β-HCH between the first and last stools of the newborn. Levels of DDT diminished as pregnancy progressed. Concentrations in cord blood were positively associated with concentrations in meconium for p,p′-DDE and β-HCH.

Conclusions: Meconium is a very useful instrument for the investigation of fetal exposure to neurotoxicants; serial collection and analysis of meconium should estimate the timing and degree of in utero exposure of the fetus to neurotoxicants. Analysis and interpretation of neurotoxicants in meconium results is a complex process. Measurement in meconium of a wide range of neurotoxic substances should facilitate early identification of harmful exposures, and enable rehabilitation and instigation of preventive measures.

  • α-, β-, γ-, δ-HCH, hexachlorocyclohexane isomers
  • HCB, hexachlorobenzene
  • OC, organochlorine compound
  • PCB, polychlorinated biphenyl
  • PeCB, pentachlorobenzene
  • p,p′-DDE, dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethylene
  • p,p′-DDT, dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane
  • TBB, tetrabromobenzene
  • TOC, total organic carbon
  • biological markers
  • environmental pollutants
  • meconium
  • neurotoxicity syndromes
  • prenatal exposure

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