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The LINC-study: LInking EDCs in maternal Nutrition and Child health

Introduction to the research project

Start date: January 2011
End date: Still ongoing

Funded by Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and by European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme [FP7/2007-2013] under grant agreements OBELIX n° 227391, INFLAME n° 264600, and  DENAMIC n° 282957.

Introduction to the research project

Children are exposed to chemicals on a daily basis, mostly through everyday products and practices. Exposure starts, however, already as early as before birth, as chemicals present in the body of the mother may pass the placenta to reach the unborn child. Certain chemicals may disrupt the endocrine system (endocrine disrupting chemicals, EDCs), and early life exposure to EDCs may be particularly detrimental due to the vulnerability of the fetus. 

Studies have observed increased risks for higher BMI during childhood in relation to exposure to (among others) polychlorinated biphenyls and DDE, the metabolite of the pesticide DDT. Next to that, early life exposure to chemicals has been associated with behavioral disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorders. 

The LINC study was designed to study early life exposure to chemicals and health effects in children. Information on chemical exposure is mainly collected around birth. Development, both physical and behavioral, of the children is tracked. Furthermore we collect data on the environment of the children, with a particular focus on the indoor home environment.

Main objective

To relate early life exposure markers of EDCs with effect biomarkers, child health outcome data and other parameters.


  1. What research do we do?
    The LINC study is a prospective birth cohort at three locations in the Netherlands (Zwolle, Den Helder, Purmerend). Data collection starts as early as possible during pregnancy and continues with regular intervals until 4 years of age. Samples are collected at birth and include cord blood, placenta, child’s urine, and meconium. During the second month after birth breast milk is collected and at one year of age a house visit is made to collect a saliva sample and body wipe samples and to sample the indoor home environment.
  2. What is the specific role of Environment and Health?
    The LINC study is designed to study associations between early life environmental exposures and child health, including growth and neurodevelopment. As such it creates possibilities to validate findings from experimental studies, but also to generate hypotheses that can be tested in vitro and/or in vitro.
  3. Which (new) techniques/ approaches were used. How is this unique?
    We assess exposure to a multitude of chemicals very early in life (currently over 90 compounds assessed). As various samples are collected, the LINC study offers a wealth of opportunity to study potential pathways between exposure and outcome. 


  1. Girls with a higher exposure to DDE and PFOS had a higher birthweight than lower exposed peers. There are indications for similar effects for exposure to DEHP (a phthalate) metabolites.
  2. Boys with a lower exposure to DDE, MEOHP, and MECPP had a higher BMI during the first year, and showed an increase in BMI during six and eleven months of age.
  3. Girls with a higher exposure to DDE and PFOA had higher T4 levels in heel prick blood spots.
  4. Girls with higher exposure to ΣPCBs and dieldrin scored higher for ADHD-like behavior and externalizing behavior than lower exposed peers. Similar effects were observed for ΣHCH and HCB exposure.
  5. Effects of chlorpyrifos exposure on epinephrine, norepinephrine, and glutamate levels in cord blood were observed. Exposure to MEHHP and MeHg was associated with lower levels of acetylcholine in cord blood (not yet published).

Key Publication

Cock, M. de, Quaak, I., Sugeng, E.J., Legler, J., Van de Bor, M. LInking EDCs in maternal Nutrition to Child health (LINC study) – protocol for prospective cohort to study early life exposure to environmental chemicals and child health. BMC Public Health. 2016; 16(a), 147.


Data from the LINC study has thus far been used in three European consortia. For information on collaborations, please contact Dr. Eva Sugeng (contact details below).

Staff involved in this project

Project leader team:

  • Prof. dr. Majorie van Duursen 
  • Prof. dr. Pim Leonards
  • Prof. dr. Marja Lamoree
  • Dr. Eva Sugeng