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Exposure to Glycol Ethers and Neurocognitive Abilities in 6-Year-Old Children: The PELAGIE Cohort Study

1000-liter-canisters with frac chemicals

Glycol ethers are used in huge quanitities during frac operations.

Glycol ethers are organic solvents which are widely used in cosmetics and cleaning agents, but also – in huge quantities – for drilling and for hydraulic fracturing. The results of this investigation suggest that prenatal exposure to glycol ethers can affect neurodevelopment, particularly the development of cognitive abilities in young people.

Background: Glycol ethers (GE) are widely used organic solvents. Despite the potential neurotoxicity of several families of organic solvents, little is known about the impact of GE on the neurodevelopment of infants and children.
Objectives: We investigated the relation between urinary concentrations of GE metabolites in pregnant women and neurocognitive abilities in their 6-year-old children in the PELAGIE mother-child cohort.
Methods: Five GE metabolites were measured in first-void urine samples of 204 French pregnant women in early pregnancy (<19 weeks of gestation). Psychologists assessed the neurocognitive abilities of their six-year-old children with the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children IV (WISC) and the Developmental Neuropsychological Assessment (NEPSY). We analyzed the results with linear (WISC) and Poisson regression models (NEPSY), adjusted for potential confounders, including child’s stimulation at home.
Results: GE metabolites were detected in 90–100% of maternal urine samples. The WISC Verbal Comprehension score was significantly lower for children with the highest tertile of urinary phenoxyacetic acid (PhAA) (beta (third vs first tertile) = -6.53; 95%CI: -11.44, -1.62). Similarly, the NEPSY Design Copying subtest score was lower in those with the highest tertile of urinary ethoxyacetic acid (EAA) (beta (third vs first tertile) = -0.11; 95%CI: -0.21, 0.00). The other GE metabolites we studied were not significantly associated with WISC or NEPSY scores.
Conclusions: Prenatal urine concentrations of two GE metabolites were associated with lower WISC Verbal Comprehension Index scores and NEPSY Design Copying subscale scores, respectively, at age six. PhAA is the primary metabolite of 2-phenoxyethanol (EGPhE), which is commonly found in cosmetics, and precursors of EAA are frequently used in cleaning agents. Additional research is needed to confirm our findings and further explore potential effects of prenatal GE exposures on neurocognitive performance in children.

Rémi Béranger, Ronan Garlantézec, Gaïd Le Maner-Idrissi, Agnès Lacroix, Florence Rouget, Jessica Trowbridge, Charline Warembourg, Christine Monfort, Florent Le Gléau, Marylène Jourdin, Luc Multigner, Sylvaine Cordier, and Cécile Chevrier
Prenatal Exposure to Glycol Ethers and Neurocognitive Abilities in 6-Year-Old Children: The PELAGIE Cohort Study
Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/EHP39; http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/EHP39
Received: 26 February 2016
Revised: 26 September 2016
Accepted: 26 September 2016
Published: 14 October 2016

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