Cord serum immunoglobulin E related to the environmental contamination of human placentas with organochlorine compounds

Environ Health Perspect. 1999 Nov;107(11):895-9. doi: 10.1289/ehp.107-1566702.


Allergic diseases are on the rise in both prevalence and severity, especially in industrialized countries. The process of allergic sensitization needs an understanding of the role environmental factors play in its development. In addition to traditionally considered air pollutants, various persistent organochlorine pollutants, which accumulate in the human body over a lifetime via food intake, are toxic in humans. Placental contamination by chemicals may act as a biologic marker for the exposure of the mother or for the fetus via transplacental transfer. Placentas were collected from term deliveries in two Slovak regions. The samples were then analyzed for 21 selected organochlorine compounds. Specimens of cord blood from 2,050 neonates were gathered for the determination of levels of total immunoglobulin E (IgE). The regions were chosen according to their environmental characteristics: a city polluted with organic chemical industry versus a rural region devoid of industrial sources of pollution. In addition, data regarding the incidence rate of atopic eczema cases in the regions were considered. Comparisons between regions revealed that both the placental contamination with 16 of 21 organochlorine compounds and the cord serum IgE levels were significantly higher in the industrial region. The findings pointed to an association between organochlorine compounds and the higher levels of total IgE in newborns, signaling a higher allergic sensitization in the industrial region. This association was supported by the higher incidence rate of atopic eczema cases in the population registered in the industrial region.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Eczema / etiology
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Environmental Pollutants / immunology*
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood*
  • Industry
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Placenta / chemistry
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / adverse effects
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*


  • Biomarkers
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Immunoglobulin E
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls