Internal Exposure to Organochlorine Pollutants and Cadmium and Self-Reported Health Status: A Prospective Study

Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2015 Mar;218(2):232-45. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2014.11.002. Epub 2014 Dec 4.


In this paper, based on the Flemish biomonitoring programs, we describe the associations between internal exposure to organochlorine pollutants and to cadmium (measured in 2004-2005 for adults aged 50-65 years) and self-reported health status obtained through a questionnaire in November 2011. Dioxin-like activity in serum showed a significant positive association with risk of cancer for women. After adjustment for confounders and covariates, the odds ratio for an exposure equal to the 90th percentile was 2.4 times higher than for an exposure equal to the 10th percentile. For both men and women dioxin-like activity and serum hexachlorobenzene (HCB) showed a significant positive association with risk of diabetes and of hypertension. Detailed analysis suggested that an increase in BMI might be part of the mechanism through which HCB contributes to diabetes and hypertension. Serum dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (p,p'-DDE) concentration showed a significant positive association with diabetes and hypertension in men, but not in women. Serum polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) 118 showed a significant positive association with diabetes in both men and women, and after adjustment for correlated exposures, also with hypertension in men. Urinary cadmium concentrations showed a significant positive association with hypertension. Urinary cadmium concentrations were (in 2004-2005) significantly higher in persons who felt in less than good health (in 2011) than in persons who felt in very good health. After adjustment for correlated exposures (to HCB, p,p'-DDE and PCB118) marker PCBs showed a significant negative association with diabetes and hypertension. Serum p,p'-DDE showed in men a significant negative association with risk of diseases based on atheromata. Our findings suggest that exposure to pollutants can lead to an important increase in the risk of diseases such as cancer, diabetes and hypertension. Some pollutants may possibly also decrease the risk of some health problems, although this requires confirmation by other approaches.

Keywords: Cancer; Diabetes; Dioxin-like activity; Hexachlorobenzene; Hypertension; Osteoporosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Belgium
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cadmium / toxicity
  • Cadmium / urine*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / etiology
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / blood
  • Dioxins / blood
  • Dioxins / toxicity
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Environmental Pollutants / urine*
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Hexachlorobenzene / blood
  • Hexachlorobenzene / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / blood*
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / toxicity
  • Hypertension / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic / blood
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Self Report*
  • Sex Factors


  • Biomarkers
  • Dioxins
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Cadmium
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene
  • Hexachlorobenzene
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls