Prenatal organochlorine compound exposure, rapid weight gain, and overweight in infancy

Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Feb;119(2):272-8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1002169. Epub 2010 Sep 15.


Background: Although it has been hypothesized that fetal exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals may increase obesity risk, empirical data are limited, and it is uncertain how early in life any effects may begin.

Objectives: We explored whether prenatal exposure to several organochlorine compounds (OCs) is associated with rapid growth in the first 6 months of life and body mass index (BMI) later in infancy.

Methods: Data come from the INMA (Infancia y Medio-Ambiente) Child and Environment birth cohort in Spain, which recruited 657 women in early pregnancy. Rapid growth during the first 6 months was defined as a change in weight-for-age z-scores > 0.67, and elevated BMI at 14 months, as a z-score ≥ the 85th percentile. Generalized linear models were used to estimate the risk of rapid growth or elevated BMI associated with 2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)-1,1-dichloroethylene (DDE), hexachlorobenzene, β-hexachlorohexane, and polychlorinated biphenyls in first-trimester maternal serum.

Results: After multivariable adjustment including other OCs, DDE exposure above the first quartile was associated with doubling of the risk of rapid growth among children of normal-weight (BMI < 25 kg/m2), but not overweight, mothers. DDE was also associated with elevated BMI at 14 months (relative risk per unit increase in log DDE = 1.50; 95% confidence interval, 1.11-2.03). Other OCs were not associated with rapid growth or elevated BMI after adjustment.

Conclusions: In this study we found prenatal DDE exposure to be associated with rapid weight gain in the first 6 months and elevated BMI later in infancy, among infants of normal-weight mothers. More research exploring the potential role of chemical exposures in early-onset obesity is needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / toxicity*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Overweight / chemically induced*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Weight Gain / drug effects*


  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated