Background: Recently low dose organochlorine (OC) pesticides have been strongly linked to various chronic diseases including diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Both field and animal studies have suggested a possibility that persistent lipophilic chemicals like OC pesticides can cause vitamin D deficiency, but there have been no human studies of exposure to any chemical as a possible cause of vitamin D deficiency. This study was performed to examine if serum concentrations of OC pesticides were associated with serum concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) in the U.S. general population.
Methodology/principal findings: Cross-sectional associations of serum OC pesticides with serum 25(OH)D were investigated in 1,275 subjects aged ≥20 in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2003-2004. We selected 7 OC pesticides detectable in ≥80% of participants. Among the 7 OC pesticides, p,p'-DDT (β = -0.022, P<0.01), p,p'-DDE (β = -0.018, P = 0.04), and β-hexachlorocyclohexane (β = -0.022, P = 0.02) showed significant inverse associations with serum 25(OH)D levels. When study subjects were stratified by age, race, and the presence of various chronic diseases, p,p'-DDT showed consistent inverse associations in all subgroups, although stronger associations tended to be observed among subjects with old age, white race, or chronic diseases.
Conclusion/significance: The current study suggests that the background exposure to some OC pesticides leads to vitamin D deficiency in human. Considering the importance of vitamin D deficiency in the development of chronic diseases, chemical exposure as a possible cause of vitamin D deficiency should be evaluated in prospective and experimental studies.