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1.  Association between maternal antenatal depression and infant development: a hospital-based prospective cohort study 
To examine the association between antenatal depression and infant development after controlling for confounding factors.
A hospital-based prospective cohort study (Hokkaido Study on Environment and Children’s Health) was conducted between July 2002 and October 2005 in Sapporo, Japan. Of 309 mothers who delivered at Sapporo Toho Hospital during the study period and who agreed with the clinical assessment of depression, 154 mother–infant pairs were eligible for analysis. Antenatal depression was assessed between the second and third trimesters using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), and infant development was assessed at 6 months by the Bayley Scales of Infant Development II (BSID-II). Data on potential confounders, including socioeconomic status, birth complications, postnatal depression and child care environment, were obtained from medical records and self-administered questionnaires. Univariable and multivariable analyses were conducted in which the EPDS score was entered as an independent variable and the BSID-II scores as a dependent variable, adjusting for confounders.
Although the antenatal EPDS score tended to be related to the BSID-II score in the univariable analysis, this correlation was lost in the multivariable analysis. However, based on a series of linear regression analyses, antenatal depression was found to be significantly related to shorter gestational age (β = −0.25, 95 % confidence interval (CI) [−1.20, −0.17]), and shorter gestational age was significantly related to a lower BSID-II (mental development) score (β = 0.23, 95 % CI [0.00, 0.00]).
Gestational age is an important confounder in the association between maternal antenatal depression and infant development. A delay in infant development may be related to a shorter gestational period caused by maternal depression during pregnancy.
PMCID: PMC3890074  PMID: 23913005
Maternal depression; Pregnancy; Infant development; Gestational age; Cohort study
2.  Ten years of progress in the Hokkaido birth cohort study on environment and children’s health: cohort profile—updated 2013 
The Hokkaido Study on Environment and Children’s Health is an ongoing cohort study that began in 2002. The study consists of two prospective birth cohorts, the Sapporo cohort (n = 514) and the Hokkaido large-scale cohort (n = 20,940). The primary goals of this study are to first examine the potential negative effects of perinatal environmental chemical exposures on birth outcomes, including congenital malformations and growth retardation; second, to evaluate the development of allergies, infectious diseases and neurodevelopmental disorders and perform longitudinal observations of the children’s physical development to clarify the causal relationship between these outcomes and environmental chemicals; third, to identify individuals genetically susceptible to environmental chemicals; finally, to identify the additive effects of various environmental factors in our daily life, such as secondhand smoke exposure or low folate intake during early pregnancy. In this paper, we introduce our recent progress in the Hokkaido study with a cohort profile updated in 2013. For the last ten years, we followed pregnant women and their offspring, measuring various environmental chemicals, i.e., PCB, OH-PCB and dioxins, PFCs (Perfluorinated Compounds), Organochlorine pesticides, Phthalates, bisphenol A and mercury. We discovered that the concentration of toxic equivalents (TEQ) of dioxin and other specific congeners of PCDF or PCDD have effects on birth weight, infants’ neurodevelopment and immune function. There were significant gender differences in these effects; our results suggest that male infants have more susceptibility to those chemical exposures than female infants. Interestingly, we found maternal genetic polymorphisms in AHR, CYP1A1 or GSTs that significantly modified the dioxin concentrations in maternal blood, suggesting different dioxin accumulations in the bodies of individuals with these genotypes, which would lead to different dioxin exposure levels. These genetic susceptibility factors influenced the body size of children born from mothers that either smoked or were passively exposed to tobacco smoke. Further studies investigating the correlation between epigenetics, the effects of intrauterine exposure to environmental chemicals and developmental factors related to health and disease are warranted.
PMCID: PMC3824728  PMID: 23959649
Birth cohort; PCB/dioxin; PFCs (PFAAs); Gene–environment interaction; Gender difference
3.  Association between Maternal Exposure to di(2-ethylhexyl) Phthalate and Reproductive Hormone Levels in Fetal Blood: The Hokkaido Study on Environment and Children's Health 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e109039.
Prenatal di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) exposure can produce reproductive toxicity in animal models. Only limited data exist from human studies on maternal DEHP exposure and its effects on infants. We aimed to examine the associations between DEHP exposure in utero and reproductive hormone levels in cord blood. Between 2002 and 2005, 514 pregnant women agreed to participate in the Hokkaido Study Sapporo Cohort. Maternal blood samples were taken from 23–35 weeks of gestation and the concentration of the primary metabolite of DEHP, mono(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (MEHP), was measured. Concentrations of infant reproductive hormones including estradiol (E2), total testosterone (T), and progesterone (P4), inhibin B, insulin-like factor 3 (INSL3), steroid hormone binding globulin, follicle-stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone were measured from cord blood. Two hundred and two samples with both MEHP and hormones' data were included in statistical analysis. The participants completed a self-administered questionnaire regarding information on maternal characteristics. Gestational age, birth weight and infant sex were obtained from birth records. In an adjusted linear regression analysis fit to all study participants, maternal MEHP levels were found to be associated with reduced levels of T/E2, P4, and inhibin B. For the stratified analyses for sex, inverse associations between maternal MEHP levels T/E2, P4, inhibin B, and INSL3 were statistically significant for males only. In addition, the MEHP quartile model showed a significant p-value trend for P4, inhibin B, and INSL3 decrease in males. Since inhibin B and INSL3 are major secretory products of Sertoli and Leydig cell, respectively, the results of this study suggest that DEHP exposure in utero may have adverse effects on both Sertoli and Leydig cell development in males, which agrees with the results obtained from animal studies. Comprehensive studies investigating phthalates' exposure in humans, as well as their long-term effects on reproductive development are needed.
PMCID: PMC4189794  PMID: 25296284
4.  Effects of Maternal 5,10-Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase C677T and A1298C Polymorphisms and Tobacco Smoking on Infant Birth Weight in a Japanese Population 
Journal of Epidemiology  2012;22(2):91-102.
Intracellular folate hemostasis depends on the 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene. Because 5,10-MTHFR 677TT homozygosity and tobacco smoking are associated with low folate status, we tested the hypothesis that smoking in mothers with 5,10-MTHFR C677T or A1298C polymorphisms would be independently associated with lower birth weight among their offspring.
We assessed 1784 native Japanese mother-child pairs drawn from the ongoing birth cohort of The Hokkaido Study on Environment and Children’s Health. Data (demographic information, hospital birth records, and biological specimens) were extracted from recruitments that took place during the period from February 2003 to March 2006. Maternal serum folate were assayed by chemiluminescent immunoassay, and genotyping of 5,10-MTHFR C677T/A1298C polymorphisms was done using a TaqMan allelic discrimination assay.
The prevalence of folate deficiency (<6.8 nmol/L) was 0.3%. The 5,10-MTHFR 677CT genotype was independently associated with an increase of 36.40 g (95% CI: 2.60 to 70.30, P = 0.035) in mean infant birth weight and an increase of 90.70 g (95% CI: 6.00 to 175.50, P = 0.036) among male infants of nonsmokers. Female infants of 677TT homozygous passive smokers were 99.00 g (95% CI: −190.26 to −7.56, P = 0.034) lighter. The birth weight of the offspring of smokers with 5,10-MTHFR 1298AA homozygosity was lower by 107.00 g (95% CI: −180.00 to −33.90, P = 0.004).
The results suggest that, in this population, maternal 5,10-MTHFR C677T polymorphism, but not the 5,10-MTHFR A1298C variant, is independently associated with improvement in infant birth weight, especially among nonsmokers. However, 5,10-MTHFR 1298AA might be associated with folate impairment and could interact with tobacco smoke to further decrease birth weight.
PMCID: PMC3798587  PMID: 22277790
birth weight; tobacco smoking; MTHFR SNPs; folate; Japan
5.  Correlations between Prenatal Exposure to Perfluorinated Chemicals and Reduced Fetal Growth 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2008;117(4):660-667.
Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) are man-made, ubiquitous, and persistent contaminants in the environment, wildlife, and humans. Although recent studies have shown that these chemicals interfere with fetal growth in humans, the results are inconsistent.
Our goal was to investigate the correlation between relatively low levels of PFOS and PFOA in maternal serum and birth weight and birth size.
We conducted a hospital-based prospective cohort study between July 2002 and October 2005 in Sapporo, Japan. A total of 428 women and their infants were involved in the study. We obtained characteristics of the mothers and infants from self-administered questionnaire surveys and from medical records. We analyzed maternal serum samples for PFOS and PFOA by liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS).
After adjusting for confounding factors, PFOS levels negatively correlated with birth weight [per log10 unit: β = −148.8 g; 95% confidence interval (CI), −297.0 to −0.5 g]. In addition, analyses stratified by sex revealed that PFOS levels negatively correlated with birth weight only in female infants (per log10 unit: β = −269.4 g; 95% CI, −465.7 to −73.0 g). However, we observed no correlation between PFOA levels and birth weight.
Our results indicate that in utero exposure to relatively low levels of PFOS was negatively correlated with birth weight.
PMCID: PMC2679613  PMID: 19440508
birth weight; chest circumference; fetal growth; head circumference; length; perfluorinated chemicals; perfluorooctane sulfonate; perfluorooctanoate; prenatal exposure
6.  Effects of Prenatal Exposure to Polychlorinated Biphenyls and Dioxins on Mental and Motor Development in Japanese Children at 6 Months of Age 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2005;114(5):773-778.
Several studies have shown that prenatal and/or postnatal background-level exposure to environmental chemicals, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins, induces adverse effects on the neurodevelopment of children. However, other studies have not detected any harmful influences on neurodevelopment. Furthermore, except in western countries, no developmental tests have been carried out in relation to detailed assessment of exposure to PCBs and dioxins. In this study (the Hokkaido Study on Environment and Children’s Health), the effect of prenatal exposure to background levels of PCBs and dioxins on infant neurodevelopment in Japan/Sapporo was elucidated. The associations between the total or individual isomer level of PCBs and dioxins in 134 Japanese pregnant women’s peripheral blood and the mental or motor development of their 6-month-old infants were evaluated using the second edition of the Bayley Scales of Infant Development. The mean level of total toxicity equivalency quantity (TEQ) was 18.8 (4.0–51.2) pg/g lipid in blood of 134 mothers. After adjustment for potential confounding variables, the total TEQ value was shown not to be significantly associated with mental developmental index (MDI) or psychomotor developmental index (PDI). However, the levels of one polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxin (PCDD) isomer, total PCDDs, and total PCDDs/polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) were significantly negatively associated with MDI, and the levels of two PCDD isomers and three PCDF isomers were significantly negatively associated with the PDI. In conclusion, the background-level exposure of several isomers of dioxins during the prenatal period probably affects the motor development of 6-month-old infants more than it does their mental development.
PMCID: PMC1459935  PMID: 16675436
dioxins; infant development; maternal blood; polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); prenatal exposure
7.  Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Related Perfluorinated Compounds in Human Maternal and Cord Blood Samples: Assessment of PFOS Exposure in a Susceptible Population during Pregnancy 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2004;112(11):1204-1207.
Fluorinated organic compounds (FOCs), such as perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), perfluorooctanoate (PFOA), and perfluorooctane sulfonylamide (PFOSA), are widely used in the manufacture of plastic, electronics, textile, and construction material in the apparel, leather, and upholstery industries. FOCs have been detected in human blood samples. Studies have indicated that FOCs may be detrimental to rodent development possibly by affecting thyroid hormone levels. In the present study, we determined the concentrations of FOCs in maternal and cord blood samples. Pregnant women 17–37 years of age were enrolled as subjects. FOCs in 15 pairs of maternal and cord blood samples were analyzed by liquid chromatography–electrospray mass spectrometry coupled with online extraction. The limits of quantification of PFOS, PFOA, and PFOSA in human plasma or serum were 0.5, 0.5, and 1.0 ng/mL, respectively. The method enables the precise determination of FOCs and can be applied to the detection of FOCs in human blood samples for monitoring human exposure. PFOS concentrations in maternal samples ranged from 4.9 to 17.6 ng/mL, whereas those in fetal samples ranged from 1.6 to 5.3 ng/mL. In contrast, PFOSA was not detected in fetal or maternal samples, whereas PFOA was detected only in maternal samples (range, < 0.5 to 2.3 ng/mL, 4 of 15). Our results revealed a high correlation between PFOS concentrations in maternal and cord blood (r2 = 0.876). However, we did not find any significant correlations between PFOS concentration in maternal and cord blood samples and age bracket, birth weight, or levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone or free thyroxine. Our study revealed that human fetuses in Japan may be exposed to relatively high levels of FOCs. Further investigation is required to determine the postnatal effects of fetal exposure to FOCs.
PMCID: PMC1247483  PMID: 15289168
cord blood; fluorinated organic compounds; human; PFOA; PFOS; PFOSA; pregnancy

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