Agent Orange: 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin in breast milk increases autistic traits of 3-year-old children in Vietnam : Molecular Psychiatry

Dioxin levels in the breast milk of mothers residing near a contaminated former airbase in Vietnam remain much higher than in unsprayed areas, suggesting high perinatal dioxin exposure for their infants. The present study investigated the association of perinatal dioxin exposure with autistic traits in 153 3-year-old children living in a contaminated area in Vietnam. The children were followed up from birth using the neurodevelopmental battery Bayley-III. The high-2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD, (a contaminant of agent orange)) exposed groups (greater than or equal to3.5pg per g fat) showed significantly higher Autism Spectrum Rating Scale (ASRS) scores for both boys and girls than the mild-TCDD exposed groups, without differences in neurodevelopmental scores. In contrast, the high total dioxin-exposed group, indicated by polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins/furans (PCDDs/Fs)—the toxic equivalents (TEQ) levelsgreater than or equal to17.9pg-TEQ per g fat, had significantly lower neurodevelopmental scores than the mild-exposed group in boys, but there was no difference in the ASRS scores. The present study demonstrates a specific impact of perinatal TCDD on autistic traits in childhood, which is different from the neurotoxicity of total dioxins (PCDDs/Fs).

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