BACKGROUND:: Maternal exposure to dioxins and dioxin-like compounds may affect fetal growth and development. We evaluated the association between in utero dioxin-like activity and birth outcomes in a prospective European mother-child study. METHODS:: We measured dioxin-like activity in maternal and cord blood plasma samples collected at delivery using the Dioxin-Responsive Chemically Activated LUciferase eXpression (DR CALUX) bioassay in 967 mother-child pairs, in Denmark, Greece, Norway, Spain, and England. Multiple linear regression models were used to investigate the associations with birth weight, gestational age, and head circumference. RESULTS:: Plasma dioxin-like activity was higher in maternal sample than in cord samples. Birth weight was lower with medium (-58 g [95% confidence interval (CI) = -176 to 62]) and high (-82 g [-216 to 53]) tertiles of exposure (cord blood) compared with the lowest tertile. Gestational age was shorter by approximately half a week in the highest compared with the lowest (-0.4 weeks [95% CI = -0.8 to -0.1]). This association was stronger in boys than in girls, although the statistical evidence for interaction was weak (P = 0.22). Analysis based on CALUX-toxic equivalents expressed per milliliter of plasma showed similar trends. We found no association between dioxin-like activity in maternal plasma and birth outcomes. CONCLUSIONS:: Results from this international general population study suggest an association between low-level prenatal dioxin-like activity and shorter gestational age, particularly in boys, with weaker associations for birth weight.
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