A nested case-control study of intrauterine exposure to persistent organochlorine pollutants in relation to risk of type 1 diabetes

PLoS One. 2010 Jun 23;5(6):e11281. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0011281.


Background: The incidence of type 1 diabetes in Europe is increasing at a rate of about 3% per year and there is also an increasing incidence throughout the world. Type 1 diabetes is a complex disease caused by multiple genetic and environmental factors. Persistent organochlorine pollutants (POPs) have been suggested as a triggering factor for developing childhood type 1 diabetes. The aim of this case-control study was to assess possible impacts of in utero exposure to POPs on type 1 diabetes.

Methodology/ principal findings: The study was performed as a case-control study within a biobank in Malmö, a city located in the Southern part of Sweden. The study included 150 cases (children who had their diagnosis mostly before 18 years of age) and 150 controls, matched for gender and day of birth. 2,2',4,4',5,5'-hexachlorobiphenyl (PCB-153) and the major DDT metabolite 1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis (p-chlorophenyl)-ethylene (p,p'-DDE) were used as a biomarkers for POP exposure. When comparing the quartile with the highest maternal serum concentrations of PCB-153 with the other quartiles, an odds ratio (OR) of 0.73 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.42, 1.27) was obtained. Similar results was obtained for p,p'-DDE (OR 0.56, 95% CI 0.29, 1.08).

Conclusions: The hypothesis that in utero exposure to POPs will trigger the risk for developing type 1 diabetes was not supported by the results. The risk estimates did, although not statistically significant, go in the opposite direction. However, it is not reasonable to believe that exposure to POPs should protect against type 1 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • DDT / toxicity*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / etiology*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*


  • Biomarkers
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • DDT
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  • 2,4,5,2',4',5'-hexachlorobiphenyl