Neurocognitive changes among elderly exposed to PCBs/PCDFs in Taiwan

Kao Chang Lin, Nai Wen Guo, Pei Chien Tsai, Chiu Yueh Yang, Yue Liang Leon Guo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In 1979 approximately 2,000 people were exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) due to ingestion of contaminated cooking oil in Taiwan. Although a previous study has shown delayed developmental milestone and poorer neurocognitive functioning in children born to exposed mothers, it is unclear whether neurocognitive functioning was impaired in people who were directly exposed to the PCBs and PDCFs. Objectives: The objective of this study was to compare neurocognitive functioning in people exposed to PCBs and PCDFs with that of unexposed sex- and age-matched neighbors. Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study among exposed and unexposed subjects ≥ 60 years of age using prospective outcome measurements. We evaluated neurocognitive tests including cognition, memory modalities, learning, motor and sensory function, mood, and daily activity. Results: In total, 162 (59%) exposed and 151 (55%) reference subjects completed this study. In exposed men, all test results were similar to the reference group; however, exposed women had reduced functioning in attention and digit span (ADS), visual memory span (VMS), and verbal memory recalls (VMR), especially learning ability, We also found a borderline reductions in the Mini-Mental State Examination. The digit symbol, motor, sensory depression (determined by the Geriatric Depression Scale-Short Form) and activity of daily life were not different between the exposed and reference groups. A significant dose-response relationship was found for VMR, ADS, and VMS. Conclusion: Our study showed dose-dependent neurocognitive deficits in certain aspects of attention, visual memory, and learning ability in women previously exposed to PCBs and PCDFs, but not in exposed men.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-189
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Feb

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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