Fish from the Great Lakes are contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls, which have been found to have several adverse reproductive effects. Several environmental contaminants have been found to alter the sex ratio of offspring at birth, but the evidence of such an effect of polychlorinated biphenyls has been inconsistent.


We examined parental serum polychlorinated biphenyl concentration in relation to the sex ratio of 173 children of mothers and 208 children of fathers from the Great Lakes region of the United States between 1970 and 1995. We calculated odds ratios for a male child using logistic regression and generalized estimating equations with adjustment for the year of birth of the child, maternal and paternal age, the mother's parity at the child's birth, and whether the child had an older brother.


The adjusted odds ratio for having a male child among mothers in the highest quintile of serum polychlorinated biphenyl concentration was 0.18 (95% CI: 0.06-0.59) compared to mothers in the lowest quintile. Treating exposure as a continuous variable, the adjusted odds ratio for having a male child was 0.54 per unit increase in the natural log of maternal serum polychlorinated biphenyl concentration (95% CI: 0.33-0.89). There was little evidence of an association with paternal exposure. We found no association between either maternal or paternal serum dichlorodiphenyl-dichloroethene concentration and the sex ratio.


These findings suggest that maternal exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls may decrease the sex ratio of offspring. These data add to the growing body of evidence that exposure to particular chemicals can alter the sex ratio at birth.