Low dose of some persistent organic pollutants predicts type 2 diabetes: a nested case-control study

Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Sep;118(9):1235-42. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0901480. Epub 2010 May 5.


Background: Low doses of some persistent organic pollutants (POPs) associate cross-sectionally with type 2 diabetes, whereas associations with high POP exposures are inconsistent.

Objectives: We investigated whether several POPs prospectively predict type 2 diabetes within the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) cohort.

Methods: Participants in this nested case-control study were diabetes free in 1987-1988. By 2005-2006, the 90 controls remained free of diabetes, whereas the 90 cases developed diabetes. Using serum collected in 1987-1988, we measured 8 organochlorine pesticides, 22 polychlorinated biphenyl congeners (PCBs), and 1 polybrominated biphenyl (PBB). We compared POP concentrations from CARDIA and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in 2003-2004. We computed odds ratios (ORs) for incident diabetes using logistic regression analysis.

Results: Chlorinated POPs in CARDIA in 1987-1988 were much higher than corresponding NHANES 2003-2004 concentrations. POPs showed nonlinear associations with diabetes risk. The highest risk was observed in the second quartiles of trans-nonachlor, oxychlordane, mirex, highly chlorinated PCBs, and PBB153-a finding that suggests low-dose effects. We concentrated risk by summing these POPs and isolated very low concentrations of multiple POPs in the lowest sextile of the sum. The adjusted OR in the second sextile vs. the lowest sextile was 5.3 overall and 20.1 for body mass index > or = 30 kg/m2.

Conclusions: Several POPs at low doses similar to current exposure levels may increase diabetes risk, possibly through endocrine disruption. Certain POPs may a play a role in the current epidemic of diabetes, which has been attributed to obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollutants / blood*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chlordan / adverse effects
  • Chlordan / analogs & derivatives
  • Chlordan / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / adverse effects
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / blood
  • Male
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / adverse effects
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Young Adult


  • Air Pollutants
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Chlordan
  • oxychlordane
  • nonachlor
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls