Over the last two decades much has been
written about the consequences of perinatal dioxin
and PCB exposure in humans. In this paper we strive
to elucidate the data on puberty in relation to these
endocrine disruptive compounds in human populations.
Effects in PCB/dioxin-exposed human populations on
puberty are seen, not only in highly exposed cohorts, but
also in average populations with background exposures.
Study showed effects like increased weight, a delay
in pubic hair growth and male genital development in
boys, sex-hormone homeostasis, reduced penile length,
and delayed age at first ejaculation after PCB exposure.
Effects seen after dioxin exposure include retarded
initiation and stage of breast development in girls, earlier
menarche, disruption of sex hormone homeostasis,
reduced testicular volume and reduced penile length
in boys. The data published by different studies were
inconclusive as a result of different methodological
setup as well as because of multiple exposure settings.
Populations were exposed to different mixtures of
dioxin/PCB congeners or mixtures with other endocrine
disrupters, and therefore synergistic and antagonistic
effects with PCBs and dioxins are possible. Dioxinlike
compounds disturb the hormonal balance mainly through interaction with the Ah receptor, which may
influence the synthesis of hormones or their transport
proteins. However, we have to keep in mind that
hormonal balance during puberty could also be altered
by disruption of the thyroid homeostasis. Another
important possible mechanism is the induction of
epigenetic changes or effects on genetic polymorphism.
The fact that exposure to background concentrations of
dioxin-like compounds and PCBs also has effects on the
reproductive development is disconcerting and warrants
further research and long term follow-up studies.