Diabetes in relation to serum levels of polychlorinated biphenyls and chlorinated pesticides in adult Native Americans

Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Oct;115(10):1442-7. doi: 10.1289/ehp.10315.


Background: Recent research suggests that diabetes, a condition whose incidence is increasing, is associated with exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and chlorinated pesticides.

Objectives: We investigated the potential association between diabetes and serum levels of PCBs, dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), hexachlorobenzene (HCB), and mirex in a cross-sectional study of an adult Native-American (Mohawk) population.

Methods: Through a standardized questionnaire we collected demographic, medical, and lifestyle information from 352 adults, > or =30 years of age. We collected fasting serum samples that were analyzed for 101 PCB congeners, DDE, HCB, and mirex along with fasting glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol. Participants who had fasting-glucose values > 125 mg/dL and/or who were taking antidiabetic medication were defined as persons with diabetes. We conducted logistic regression to assess the potential association between organochlorine serum levels and diabetes, while controlling for the potential confounding variables of age, body mass index (BMI), smoking, sex, and serum lipid levels. Organochlorine serum levels were categorized in tertiles, and the lowest tertile was used as the reference category.

Results: The prevalence of diabetes was 20.2%. The odds ratio (OR) of having diabetes for participants in the highest tertile of total PCB concentration compared with the lowest tertile was 3.9 (95% confidence interval, 1.5-10.6). The corresponding ORs for DDE and HCB were even higher. Elevated serum mirex was not associated with diabetes. After adjustment for other analytes, the OR for HCB remained significant, whereas ORs for PCBs and DDE remained elevated but not statistically significant. In contrast, after adjustment for other analytes, the OR for mirex became statistically significant and indicated an inverse association.

Conclusions: In this study of adult Native Americans, elevated serum PCBs, DDE, and HCB were positively associated with diabetes after controlling for potential confounders, whereas a negative association was observed for mirex.

Keywords: BMI; DDE; fasting glucose; hexachlorobenzene; mirex; polychlorinated biphenyls.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology*
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / blood
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Female
  • Hexachlorobenzene / blood*
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mirex / blood*
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood*
  • Statistics as Topic


  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene
  • Hexachlorobenzene
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  • Mirex