OBJECTIVES Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) is a highly lipophilic organochlorine compound of widespread environmental occurrence, that accumulates in the biological system. It affects the porphyrine metabolism, thyroid hormones, and the liver function in animals. Although HCB is one of the most common organochlorine compound in humans, little investigation on its health effects has been done. Polychlorobiphenyls (PCBs) are also widespread toxic environmental contaminants. The aim of the present study was to investigate the association of serum HCB and PCB concentrations with thyroid hormone status and liver enzymes in human.
METHODS Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), total and free thyroxine (T4), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and γ-glutamyltransferase (GGT) were measured as biological markers of thyroid and liver function in a rural population sample older than 14 years (n=192, except for TSH with n=608) highly exposed to HCB. Serum concentrations of HCB were measured by gas chromatography coupled to electron capture detection.
RESULTS After adjustment for confounding variables, there was a significant negative association between serum HCB concentrations and total T4 (a decrease of 0.32 μg/dl per each unit, ln ng/ml, of increase of HCB) and a positive association with GGT (a relative increase of 10 % per each ln unit of increase of HCB), although most subjects (92%) were within the normal range for both T4 and GGT. These associations were not modified after adjustment for total lipid content or for other organochlorine compounds. The association of T4 and GGT with PCB was smaller although significant. No association was found with the other biochemical markers.
CONCLUSIONS These results suggest that the internal dose of HCB of this population may reflect a subtle metabolic effect on thyroid function and an enzymatic induction activity. Further studies are needed to evaluate the health impact of these effects in more susceptible populations, such as infants.
- environmental exposure
- liver enzymes
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