Determinants of organochlorine levels detectable in the amniotic fluid of women from Tenerife Island (Canary Islands, Spain)

Environ Res. 2009 Jul;109(5):607-13. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2009.03.008. Epub 2009 Apr 29.


Organochlorines (OCs) tend to accumulate in human tissues and can be measured in amniotic fluid (AF). The detection of OCs in AF samples reflects intrauterine exposure of human beings to these persistent organic pollutants. The present study was performed to evaluate the level of contamination of AF by OCs in 100 pregnant women from Tenerife Island (Canary Islands, Spain). Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) was used to identify and quantify the analytes, including 7 polychlorobiphenyl (PCB) congeners and 18 OC pesticides and metabolites. The majority of the AF samples (67%) showed some detectable OC-residue, hexachlorobenzene (HCB) being the most frequently detected compound (66% of the samples) and at the highest concentration (median 0.023 ng/ml). Lindane was also detected in 28% of the samples. Inverse associations were found between previous lactation and hexachlorocyclohexane isomers (HCH) and cyclodienes in the group of younger women (p = 0.037 and p = 0.027, respectively). Unexpectedly, serum values of HCB (r = -0.414; p = 0.04), gamma-HCH (r = -0.294; p = 0.035), and SigmaOCs (r = -0.350; p = 0.014) were negatively related to age. Even more, women with detectable levels of HCH isomers were younger (33.9 +/- 4.9 years) than women with undetectable levels of them (36.1 +/- 4.9 years; p = 0.035). We conclude that approximately one in two fetuses in the Canary Islands is exposed to OCs in utero, and that, therefore, the exposure of young women from these Islands to some HCH isomers persists nowadays. Because prenatal exposure to these chemicals may be a causative factor in adverse health trends, further studies are required to enhance preventive measures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Amniotic Fluid / metabolism*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Spain
  • Young Adult


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated