Necessity to measure PCBs and organochlorine pesticide concentrations in human umbilical cords for fetal exposure assessment

Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Mar;113(3):297-303. doi: 10.1289/ehp.7330.


Three types of tissue samples--umbilical cord (UC), umbilical cord serum (CS), and maternal serum (MS)--have often been used to assess fetal exposure to chemicals. In order to know the relationship of contamination between mothers and fetuses, we measured persistent chemicals in comparable sets of the three tissue samples. Also, we analyzed the association between the chemicals in maternal and fetal tissues to know which tissue is the best sample for fetal exposure assessment. On a wet basis, the chemical concentrations were of the order MS > CS > UC, except for some chemicals such as cis-chlordane and endosulfan. On a lipid basis, the concentrations in UC were nearly equal or often higher than in MS, but the concentrations in CS were usually lower than in others. Hexachlorocyclohexanes and penta-, hexa-, and heptachlorinated biphenyls showed an association between the concentrations in UC versus MS, and UC versus CS. These chemicals also showed high correlation coefficients between the chemical concentrations in UC of first babies and maternal age. These chemicals were closely related to each other when grouped on the basis of their concentrations using cluster analysis. In conclusion, we insist that UC is the best sample to assess fetal contamination status of persistent chemicals. There is a possibility that the assessment based on the contamination levels in CS result in an underestimation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / analysis*
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / pharmacokinetics*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange*
  • Pesticides / analysis*
  • Pesticides / pharmacokinetics*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / analysis*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / pharmacokinetics*
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Umbilical Cord / chemistry


  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Pesticides
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls