Among the most persistent and bio-accumulative environmental pollutants are the polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), a class of chemicals widely used as flame retardants in plastics and textile coating, and the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), previously used as coolants and lubricants in electrical equipment. Monitoring programs revealed high levels of both these classes of compounds in human breast milk, raising concerns for their potential noxious effects on infants. The aim of the present study was to investigate the neurotoxic effects of 2,2,4,4,5-penta BDE(BDE99: 18 mg/ kg/day) or Aroclor 1254 (A1254, a PCB mixture: 10 mg/kg/day) administration, from gestational day (GD) 6 to postnatal day (PND) 21, on neurobehavioral development in the CD-1 Swiss mouse. In addition, we investigated whether the administration route affects the emergence or the magnitude of the toxic effects of BDE 99 or A1254. In particular we compared self-administration, consisting in letting the mouse drink spontaneously the compound dissolved in oil from a syringe, with gavage, consisting in force-feeding a substance by a tube inserted in the mouth and then into the stomach, a procedure reported to be stress-inducing. Both compounds induced hyperactivity, though BDE 99 affected activity profile only during adolescence and A1254 mainly at adulthood. Levels of total circulating thyroxine were decreased by both BDE 99 and A1254 administration, though only in the latter group the decrease was statistically significant. These findings suggest a different neurotoxic action exerted by PBDEs and PCBs. An effect of the administration route, independent from the compound administered, was found on thigmotactic behavior and gavage administration affected pup body weight gain only in the A1254 group, suggesting that the stress induced by gavage procedure may either affect results per se or modulate the detrimental action of selected compounds.
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