Predictors of plasma DDT and DDE concentrations among women exposed to indoor residual spraying for malaria control in the South African Study of Women and Babies (SOWB)

Environ Health Perspect. 2014 Jun;122(6):545-52. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1307025. Epub 2014 Feb 21.


Background: Few studies have examined predictors of DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and DDE (dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene) levels among residents in homes sprayed with DDT for malaria control with the aim of identifying exposure-reduction strategies.

Methods: The present analysis included 381 women enrolled in the Study of Women and Babies (SOWB) during 2010-2011, from eight South African villages in the Limpopo Province, South Africa. Indoor residual spraying (IRS) occurred in half of the villages. Questionnaires regarding various demographic and medical factors were administered and blood samples were obtained. We classified the women into three exposure groups by type of residence: unsprayed village (n = 175), IRS village in household with a low likelihood of DDT use (non-DDT IRS household, n = 106), IRS village in household with a high likelihood of DDT use (DDT IRS household, n = 100). We used multivariable models of natural log-transformed DDT plasma levels (in micrograms per liter) and DDE (in micrograms per liter) to identify predictors for each group.

Results: Median levels of DDT and DDE among women in unsprayed villages were 0.3 [interquartile range (IQR): 0.1-0.9] and 1.7 (IQR: 0.7-5.5), respectively. Median levels of DDT and DDE among women in DDT IRS households were 2.6 (IQR: 1.1-6.6) and 8.5 (IQR: 4.7-18.0), respectively. In unsprayed villages, women with water piped to the yard, rather than a public tap, had 73% lower DDT (95% CI: -83, -57%) and 61% lower DDE (95% CI: -74, -40%) levels. In DDT IRS households, women who reported taking more than six actions to prepare their home before IRS (e.g., covering water and food) had 40% lower DDT levels (95% CI: -63, -0.3%) than women who took fewer than four actions.

Conclusion: The predictors of DDT and DDE plasma levels identified in the present study may inform interventions aimed at decreasing exposure. Among households where DDT is likely to be used for IRS, education regarding home preparations may provide an interventional target.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / statistics & numerical data*
  • DDT / blood*
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / blood*
  • Environmental Exposure / prevention & control
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Housing / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Insecticides / blood*
  • Malaria / prevention & control
  • Mosquito Control / methods
  • Pesticide Residues / blood
  • South Africa


  • Insecticides
  • Pesticide Residues
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene
  • DDT