Factors predicting organochlorine pesticide levels in pregnant Latina women living in a United States agricultural area

J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2007 Jul;17(4):388-99. doi: 10.1038/sj.jes.7500525. Epub 2006 Oct 11.


Organochlorine (OC) pesticide use was restricted starting in the 1970s in developed countries and the 1980s and 1990s in developing countries. Current exposure to OC pesticides - dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), lindane (99% pure gamma-hexachlorocyclohexane (gamma-HCH)), hexachlorobenzene (HCB) - occurs on a limited basis. We measured para, para' (p,p')-DDE, p,p'-DDT, ortho, para' (o,p')-DDT, HCB, beta (beta)-HCH (the most persistent isomer of technical-grade HCH) and gamma-HCH in serum from 426 low-income pregnant Latina women living in an agricultural community in California. Detection frequencies were 94% to 100%. Median levels (ng/g lipid) of p,p'-DDE (1,052), p,p'-DDT (13), beta-HCH (37) and HCB (65) were significantly higher than United States population levels. Multivariate analyses of p,p'-DDE, p,p'-DDT, o,p'-DDT, beta-HCH and HCB indicate that time spent living outside the United States and birthplace in an area of Mexico with recent use of OC pesticides were significant predictors of exposure. Time spent living in the United States was associated with increased serum levels of p,p'-DDE and beta-HCH, but the increase for each year lived in the United States was lower than for each year lived outside the United States. There was no difference between the increase of HCB levels over time spent in or outside the United States, suggesting current and thus preventable exposure routes. However, we observed no associations between serum levels of any OC compound and current intake of saturated fat or agricultural take-home exposure risk factors. Lactation history and recent weight gain were negatively associated with serum levels of some, but not all OC compounds studied. Smoking history was borderline associated with elevated HCB levels. We observed no significant associations with body mass index. Although the weight of evidence from this study indicates that most exposure occurred before moving to the United States, the results for HCB indicate the possibility of ongoing exposure in this country.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Agriculture*
  • California
  • DDT / blood
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Hexachlorobenzene / blood
  • Hexachlorocyclohexane / blood
  • Hispanic Americans / ethnology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / blood*
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / pharmacokinetics
  • Mexico / ethnology
  • Pesticide Residues / blood*
  • Pesticide Residues / pharmacokinetics
  • Pesticides / blood*
  • Pesticides / pharmacokinetics
  • Pregnancy / blood*
  • Risk Factors


  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Pesticide Residues
  • Pesticides
  • Hexachlorobenzene
  • Hexachlorocyclohexane
  • DDT