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Neurocognitive and physical functioning in the Seveso Women’s Health Study.

2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) is neurotoxic in animals but few studies have investigated its effects on the human brain. Related dioxin-like compounds have been linked to poorer cognitive and motor function in older adults, with effects more pronounced in women, perhaps due to the loss of neuro-protective estrogen in menopause. On 10 July 1976, a chemical explosion in Seveso, Italy, resulted in one of the highest known residential exposures to TCDD. In 1996, we initiated the Seveso Women’s Health Study, a retrospective cohort study of the health of the women who were newborn to 40 years old in 1976. Here, we investigate whether TCDD exposure is associated with physical functioning and working memory more than 20 years later. Individual TCDD concentration (ppt) was measured in archived serum collected soon after the explosion. In 1996 and 2008, we measured physical functioning (n=154) and working memory (n=459), respectively. We examined associations between serum TCDD and motor and cognitive outcomes with multivariate linear regression and semi-parametric estimators. A 10-fold increase in serum TCDD was not associated with walking speed (adjusted β=0.0006ft/s, 95% Confidence Interval (CI): -0.13, 0.13), upper body mobility (adjusted β=-0.06, 95% CI: -0.36, 0.23), or manual dexterity (adjusted β=0.34, 95% CI: -0.65, 1.33). We observed an inverted U-shaped association in grip strength, with poorer strength in the lowest and highest TCDD exposure levels. There was no association between TCDD and the Wechsler digit and spatial span tests. Neither menopause status at assessment nor developmental timing of exposure modified associations between TCDD and working memory. Our findings, in one of the only studies of TCDD’s effects on neuropsychological and physical functioning in women, do not indicate an adverse effect on these domains, with the exception of a U-shaped relationship with grip strength. Given the limited assessment and relative youth of the women at this follow-up, future work examining additional neuropsychological outcomes is warranted.

Authors: Ames, Jennifer J; Warner, Marcella M; Brambilla, Paolo P; Mocarelli, Paolo P; Satariano, William A WA; Eskenazi, Brenda B

Environmental research. 2018 Apr 01;162(Pt 1):55-62. Epub 2017-12-26.

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