Prenatal concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls, DDE, and DDT and overweight in children: a prospective birth cohort study

Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Mar;120(3):451-7. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1103862. Epub 2011 Oct 25.


Background: Recent experimental evidence suggests that prenatal exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) may increase postnatal obesity risk and that these effects may be sex or diet dependent.

Objectives: We explored whether prenatal organochlorine compound (OC) concentrations [polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT)] were associated with overweight at 6.5 years of age and whether child sex or fat intakes modified these associations.

Methods: We studied 344 children from a Spanish birth cohort established in 1997-1998. Overweight at 6.5 years was defined as a body mass index (BMI) z-score ≥ 85th percentile of the World Health Organization reference. Cord blood OC concentrations were measured and treated as categorical variables (tertiles). Children's diet was assessed by food frequency questionnaire. Relative risks (RRs) were estimated using generalized linear models.

Results: After multivariable adjustment, we found an increased RR of overweight in the third tertile of PCB exposure [RR = 1.70; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.09, 2.64] and the second tertile of DDE exposure (RR = 1.67; 95% CI: 1.10, 2.55), but no association with DDT exposure in the population overall. Associations between overweight and PCB and DDE concentrations were strongest in girls (p-interaction between 0.01 and 0.28); DDT was associated with overweight only in boys. For DDT we observed stronger associations in children with fat intakes at or above compared with below the median, but this interaction was not significant (p-interaction > 0.05).

Conclusions: This study suggests that prenatal OC exposures may be associated with overweight in children and that sex and high-fat intake may influence susceptibility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Cohort Studies
  • DDT / blood
  • DDT / toxicity
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / blood
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / toxicity
  • Dietary Fats / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry
  • Hexachlorobenzene / blood
  • Hexachlorobenzene / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / chemically induced
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Overweight / chemically induced
  • Overweight / epidemiology*
  • Overweight / etiology*
  • Pesticides / blood
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / epidemiology*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / etiology
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Spain / epidemiology


  • Dietary Fats
  • Pesticides
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene
  • Hexachlorobenzene
  • DDT
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls