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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Decreased sex ratio following maternal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls from contaminated Great Lakes sport-caught fish: a retrospective cohort study.

Marc G Weisskopf12*, Henry A Anderson1, Lawrence P Hanrahan1 and the Great Lakes Consortium

Author Affiliations

1 Bureau of Environmental Health, Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, Madison, WI, USA

2 Current address: Harvard School of Public Health, Dept. of Environmental Health, Occupational Health Program, 665 Huntington Ave Boston MA 02115, USA

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Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source 2003, 2:2  doi:10.1186/1476-069X-2-2

Published: 12 March 2003

Abstract

Background

Fish from the Great Lakes are contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls, which have been found to have several adverse reproductive effects. Several environmental contaminants have been found to alter the sex ratio of offspring at birth, but the evidence of such an effect of polychlorinated biphenyls has been inconsistent.

Methods

We examined parental serum polychlorinated biphenyl concentration in relation to the sex ratio of 173 children of mothers and 208 children of fathers from the Great Lakes region of the United States between 1970 and 1995. We calculated odds ratios for a male child using logistic regression and generalized estimating equations with adjustment for the year of birth of the child, maternal and paternal age, the mother's parity at the child's birth, and whether the child had an older brother.

Results

The adjusted odds ratio for having a male child among mothers in the highest quintile of serum polychlorinated biphenyl concentration was 0.18 (95% CI: 0.06–0.59) compared to mothers in the lowest quintile. Treating exposure as a continuous variable, the adjusted odds ratio for having a male child was 0.54 per unit increase in the natural log of maternal serum polychlorinated biphenyl concentration (95% CI: 0.33–0.89). There was little evidence of an association with paternal exposure. We found no association between either maternal or paternal serum dichlorodiphenyl-dichloroethene concentration and the sex ratio.

Conclusions

These findings suggest that maternal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls may decrease the sex ratio of offspring. These data add to the growing body of evidence that exposure to particular chemicals can alter the sex ratio at birth.