Blood pressure in relation to contamination by polychlorobiphenyls and organochlorine pesticides: Results from a population-based study in the Canary Islands (Spain)

Environ Res. 2014 Nov;135:48-54. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2014.05.036. Epub 2014 Sep 28.


Background: Epidemiological studies have reported significant associations between exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and increased blood pressure (BP). Environmental exposure to POPs, mainly organochlorine pesticides, is of concern to the population of the Canary Islands, who display a high prevalence of diseases associated with hypertension such as metabolic syndrome, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Objective: We performed this population-based study in a representative population sample from this archipelago to evaluate whether serum levels of selected POPs could be considered as hypertension risk factors.

Methods: BP and several other well-known factors related to hypertension (gender, age, smoking, BMI, and total lipids) were recorded in 428 adult participants from the Canary Islands Nutritional Survey. In total, 28 POPs (including 18 polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners and 10 organochlorine pesticides and metabolites) were measured in the serum of the population enrolled in this survey.

Results: In total, 167 subjects (39%) demonstrated hypertension or used antihypertensive medication. We observed a positive association between systolic and diastolic BP and p,p'-DDE (r=0.222; p<0.001, and r=0.123; p=0.015, respectively). Conversely, an inverse association between systolic BP and aldrin was observed (r=-0.120; p=0.017). After adjusting for known confounders, only aldrin was inversely related to hypertension risk [OR: 0.28 (95% CI: 0.09-0.92); p=0.037]. After excluding subjects undergoing anti-hypertensive treatment, we also observed that aldrin was inversely associated with systolic BP in multivariate analyses, especially in men [OR: 0.126 (95% CI: 0.021-0.763); p=0.024].

Conclusion: Although it has been postulated that background POPs exposure may play a relevant role on elevated BP, we did not observed increased hypertension risk in relation to serum POPs in this cross-sectional study. Conversely, the cyclodiene pesticide aldrin was negatively associated with hypertension, suggesting that cyclodienes could exert an effect opposite of the DDT metabolites. These findings agree with other previous works indicating that POPs may induce divergent actions on BP and suggest that the direction of the association between BP and POPs could be dependent on the chemical structure as well as concentration of the evaluated POP. Prospective studies are needed to clarify the effect exerted by POPs on BP.

Keywords: Blood pressure; Canary Islands; Organochlorine pesticides; Persistent organic pollutants; Polychlorinated biphenyls.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / blood
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / toxicity*
  • Hypertension / chemically induced*
  • Hypertension / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pesticides / blood
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Spain / epidemiology


  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Pesticides
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls