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ARTICLE |

Cognitive Development of Yu-Cheng ('Oil Disease') Children Prenatally Exposed to Heat-Degraded PCBs

Yung-Cheng Joseph Chen, MD, MPH; Yue-Liang Guo, MD, PhD; Chen-Chin Hsu, MD, PhD; Walter J. Rogan, MD
JAMA. 1992;268(22):3213-3218. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03490220057028.
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Objective.  —To compare the cognitive development in Taiwanese children who had been exposed prenatally to high levels of heat-degraded polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) with control children who were exposed to background levels. The disorder was called Yu-Cheng, "oil disease," in Taiwan.

Design.  —Matched-pair cohort study.

Setting.  —Communities in central Taiwan in which there had been a cooking-oil contamination and mass poisoning by heat-degraded PCBs in 1978 through 1979.

Participants.  —One hundred eighteen children born between June 1978 and March 1985 during or after their mothers' consumption of contaminated rice oil; 118 children matched for age, sex, neighborhood, maternal age, and parental education and occupational class; and 15 older siblings of exposed children, born before the poisoning.

Main Outcome Measures.  —Cognitive development measured from 1985 through 1990 using the Chinese versions of the Stanford-Binet test and the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Revised.

Results.  —The exposed children scored approximately 5 points lower on the Stanford-Binet test at the ages of 4 and 5 years and approximately 5 points lower on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Revised, at the ages of 6 and 7 years. Children born up to 6 years after their mothers' exposure were as affected as children born within a year or two after exposure when examined at 6 and 7 years of age. Older siblings resembled the control children.

Conclusion.  —Children prenatally exposed to heat-degraded PCBs had poorer cognitive development than their matched controls. The effect persisted in the children up to the age of 7 years, and children born long after the exposure were still affected.(JAMA. 1992;268:3213-3218)

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