Chlordecone exposure, length of gestation, and risk of preterm birth

Am J Epidemiol. 2014 Mar 1;179(5):536-44. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwt313. Epub 2014 Jan 8.


Persistent organic pollutants have not been conclusively associated with length of gestation or with preterm birth. Chlordecone is an organochlorine pesticide that has been extensively used to control the banana root borer population in the French West Indies. Data from the Timoun Mother-Child Cohort Study conducted in Guadeloupe between 2004 and 2007 were used to examine the associations of chlordecone concentrations in maternal plasma with the length of gestation and the rate preterm birth in 818 pregnant women. Data were analyzed using multivariate linear regression for length of gestation and a Cox model for preterm birth. The median plasma chlordecone concentration was 0.39 µg/L (interquartile range, 0.18-0.83). No correlation was observed with plasma concentrations of p,p'-dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethene (ρ = 0.017) or polychlorinated biphenyl 153 (ρ = -0.016), the other main organochlorine compounds detected. A 1-log10 increase in chlordecone concentration was associated with a decreased length of gestation (-0.27 weeks; 95% confidence interval: -0.50, -0.03) and an increased risk of preterm birth (60%; 95% confidence interval: 10, 130). These associations may result from the estrogen-like and progestin-like properties of chlordecone. These results are of public health relevance because of the prolonged persistence of chlordecone in the environment and the high background rate of preterm births in this population.

Keywords: French West Indies; chlordecone; length of gestation; persistent organic pollutants; pesticides; preterm birth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chlordecone / adverse effects*
  • Chlordecone / blood
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / adverse effects
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / blood
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Guadeloupe / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Insecticides / adverse effects*
  • Insecticides / blood
  • Linear Models
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / adverse effects
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Pregnancy / blood
  • Premature Birth / chemically induced*
  • Premature Birth / epidemiology
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Insecticides
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  • Chlordecone