Population-based comparison of biomarker concentrations for chemicals of concern among Latino-American and non-Hispanic white children

J Immigr Minor Health. 2015 Jun;17(3):802-19. doi: 10.1007/s10903-014-0002-2.


Differences in cultural and economic status may place ethnic subgroups of children at higher risk for exposure, leading to heightened health risks, and health inequities. Although Latino-Americans represent 22% of all children in the United States, few studies have explored within-group differences in their exposure to toxicants. Using socio-demographic and biomarker data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999 to 2008, we characterized determinants of health and estimated geometric means of environmental contaminant biomarkers (blood concentrations of lead and mercury, serum concentrations of dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene [p,p'-DDE] and cotinine, and urinary metabolites of organophosphate [OP] pesticides and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [PAHs]) among 4,257 Mexican American (MA), 677 Other Latino-American (OL), and 3,370 Non-Hispanic White (NHW) children. MAs had the lowest levels of health insurance coverage and regular access to health care, and largest household size compared to NHWs and OLs. MAs had higher levels of p,p'-DDE, lead, and cadmium while OLs had higher estimates of mercury relative to other groups. MAs had higher urinary metabolite concentrations of 2-hydroxynaphthalene; otherwise MAs and OLs had lower concentrations of PAHs. NHWs had higher levels of cotinine and dimethylthiophosphate. For other OP metabolites, differences among groups were less clear. Lead and p,p'-DDE exposure differences likely reflect later and less regulatory control of these chemicals in Latin America. Additionally, poor quality housing with lead paint is more common in economically disadvantaged subpopulations. Dietary habits are possible sources of differential cadmium, mercury, and organophosphate exposure. Cotinine exposure differences by income and U.S.- vs. foreign-born may represent increased acculturation. These results, coupled with additional research on exposure sources may contribute to refinement of environmental health promotion programs for the fast-growing Latino-American population.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Cadmium / urine
  • Child
  • Cotinine / blood
  • DDT / blood
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Health Surveys
  • Hispanic or Latino*
  • Humans
  • Lead / blood
  • Mercury / blood
  • Naphthols / urine
  • Organophosphates / urine
  • Pyrenes / urine
  • United States
  • White People*


  • Biomarkers
  • Naphthols
  • Organophosphates
  • Pyrenes
  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • DDT
  • Mercury
  • Cotinine
  • 1-hydroxypyrene
  • 2-naphthol