Associations of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) 4.4 and dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE) 4.4 blood levels with plasma IL-4

Arch Environ Health. 2002 Nov-Dec;57(6):541-7. doi: 10.1080/00039890209602086.


DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) reportedly induces cancer in animals, mimics estrogen activity, induces antiandrogen effects, and impairs Natural Killer (NK) cells and T lymphocyte responses. In this study, the authors attempted to determine associations of DDT, dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), and dichlorodiphenyldichloroethane (DDD) blood levels with several immune parameters in patients occupationally exposed to insecticides. The study subjects were 49 patients who worked as farmers or farmhands in the former German Democratic Republic and who had been occupationally exposed to insecticides for at least 6 mo; 80% of them had been exposed for more than 20 yr. Blood levels of DDT, DDE, DDD, 2,3,4,5,6-pentachlorophenol (PCP), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), hexachlorobenzene (HCB), and gamma-hexachlorocyclohexanes (HCHs) were determined, and blood lymphocyte subpopulations, in vitro responses to mitogens or pooled allogeneic stimulator cells, plasma neopterin, and cytokine and soluble cytokine receptor levels were studied. The majority of patients were contaminated with more than 1 chemical--most commonly DDE, PCBs, and HCB. Linear-regression analysis showed that interleukin-4 (IL-4) plasma levels were associated with plasma levels of DDT 4.4 (p = .0001) and DDE 4.4 (p = .001). The data in this study suggest that PCBs, PCP, HCB, HCHs, DDE, and DDD suppress TH1 cytokines, such as IL-2 and interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma), and induce TH2 cytokines, such as IL-4. The authors hypothesized that clinical symptoms, such as the frequent infections reported by many patients, could be a consequence of these immunological abnormalities.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / blood
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / immunology
  • Cytokines / blood*
  • DDT / blood*
  • DDT / immunology
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / blood*
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / immunology
  • Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethane / adverse effects
  • Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethane / blood
  • Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethane / immunology
  • Environmental Monitoring / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insecticides / blood*
  • Insecticides / immunology
  • Interleukin-4 / blood*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Immunologic
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / immunology


  • Cytokines
  • Insecticides
  • Interleukin-4
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene
  • DDT
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  • Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethane