Prenatal exposure to dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane and obesity at 9 years of age in the CHAMACOS study cohort

Am J Epidemiol. 2014 Jun 1;179(11):1312-22. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwu046. Epub 2014 Apr 9.


In-utero exposure to endocrine-disrupting compounds, including dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and its metabolite dichlorodiphenylethylene (DDE), has been hypothesized to increase the risk of obesity later in life. We examined the associations of maternal serum concentrations of DDT and DDE during pregnancy with body mass index, obesity, waist circumference, and percentage of body fat in 9-year-old children (n = 261) in the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS) Study, a longitudinal birth cohort study in the Salinas Valley, California (2000-2010). We found associations between prenatal exposure to DDT and DDE and several measures of obesity at 9 years of age in boys but not in girls. For example, among boys, 10-fold increases in prenatal DDT and DDE concentrations were associated with increased odds of becoming overweight or obese (for o,p'-DDT, adjusted odds ratio (OR) = 2.5, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.0, 6.3; for p,p'-DDT, adjusted OR = 2.1, 95% CI: 1.0, 4.5; and for p,p'-DDE, adjusted OR = 1.97, 95% CI: 0.94, 4.13). The odds ratios for girls were nonsignificant. Results were similar for body mass index z score, waist circumference z score, and odds of increased waist circumference but were less consistent for percentage of body fat. The difference by sex persisted after considering pubertal status. These results provide support for the chemical obesogen hypothesis.

Keywords: body mass index; children; dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene; dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane; obesity; prenatal exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity / drug effects
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Body Mass Index
  • California
  • Child
  • DDT / blood
  • DDT / toxicity*
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / blood
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / toxicity*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pediatric Obesity / chemically induced*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced*
  • Sex Factors
  • Waist Circumference / drug effects
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene
  • DDT