Levels of hexachlorobenzene and other organochlorine compounds in cord blood: exposure across placenta

Chemosphere. May-Jun 2001;43(4-7):895-901. doi: 10.1016/s0045-6535(00)00450-1.


Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) is an organochlorine compound widespread in the environment, highly lipophilic, that accumulates in biological systems. It has been suggested that it should be classified as a dioxin-like compound. Newborns are exposed to organochlorine compounds across the placenta and through breastfeeding. Although HCB is one of the most common organochlorine compounds, the transplacental transference of HCB from mother to fetus during pregnancy has been scarcely documented. This study reports the levels of HCB, dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane (DDT) and its metabolite p,p'DDE, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and beta-hexachlorocyclohexane (beta-HCH) in 72 maternal blood samples at delivery and in 69 cord blood samples, from which 62 corresponded to mother infant pairs born between May 1997 and September 1999 in a rural area highly exposed to HCB. Results show that all newborns presented detectable levels of HCB, PCBs, and p,p'DDE, and, to a lesser extent, of beta-HCH, the HCB levels being the highest. The geometric mean of HCB was 1.1 ng/ml, ranging from 0.3 to 5.7 ng/ml. Concentrations of HCB levels in cord blood (log ng/ml) were positively associated with concentrations in maternal blood (log ng/ml) (coefficient = 0.45, P < 0.01). Gestational age was not associated with the transplacental transfer of HCB. Maternal p,p'DDE and beta-HCH levels were also associated with newborn levels, but levels of PCBs were not. We conclude that HCB, similar to other organochlorinated compounds, has a transplacental transfer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • DDT / analysis
  • DDT / pharmacokinetics
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / analysis
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / pharmacokinetics
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry*
  • Fungicides, Industrial / analysis
  • Fungicides, Industrial / pharmacokinetics*
  • Hexachlorobenzene / analogs & derivatives
  • Hexachlorobenzene / analysis
  • Hexachlorobenzene / pharmacokinetics*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insecticides / analysis
  • Insecticides / pharmacokinetics
  • Male
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / analysis
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / pharmacokinetics
  • Pregnancy


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Fungicides, Industrial
  • Insecticides
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene
  • Hexachlorobenzene
  • DDT
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls