Prevalence of self-reported diabetes and exposure to organochlorine pesticides among Mexican Americans: Hispanic health and nutrition examination survey, 1982-1984

Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Dec;115(12):1747-52. doi: 10.1289/ehp.10258.


Background: The prevalence of diabetes is higher among Mexican Americans than among non-Hispanic whites. Higher serum levels of organochlorine pesticides in Mexican Americans have been reported. Few studies have explored the association between pesticide exposure and diabetes.

Objectives: We set out to examine the association between self-reported diabetes and serum concentrations of organochlorine pesticides among Mexican Americans residing in the southwestern United States from 1982 to 1984.

Methods: This study was conducted among a sample of 1,303 Mexican Americans 20-74 years of age from the Hispanic Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Serum concentrations were available for seven pesticides or pesticide metabolites at quantifiable levels in at least 1% of the study population: p,p'-DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), p,p'-DDE (dichlorodiphenyldichloro-ethylene), dieldrin, oxychlordane, beta-hexachlorocyclohexane, hexachlorobenzene, and trans-nonachlor. We used logistic regression to evaluate the association of self-reported diabetes with exposure to organochlorine pesticides, with and without adjustment for total serum lipids. Nonfasting serum glucose values were compared among exposure groups.

Results: Self-reported diabetes was significantly associated with serum levels above the detectable limit for trans-nonachlor, oxychlordane, and beta-hexachlorocyclohexane and among those with the highest level of exposure to p,p'-DDT and p,p'-DDE. On adjustment for total serum lipids, the association with p,p'-DDT remained significant. Serum glucose levels were elevated among those exposed to trans-nonachlor and beta-hexachlorocyclohexane.

Conclusion: This study suggests that higher serum levels of certain organochlorine pesticides may be associated with increased prevalence of diabetes. Additional studies with more extensive clinical assessment are needed to confirm this association.

Keywords: HHANES; Hispanic; diabetes; health effects; organochlorines; pesticides.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Glucose
  • Demography
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Health*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / blood*
  • Lipids / blood
  • Male
  • Mexican Americans*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys*
  • Pesticides / blood*
  • Prevalence
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Blood Glucose
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Lipids
  • Pesticides