Association of DDT and Heptachlor Epoxide in Human Blood With Diabetic Nephropathy

Rev Environ Health. 2015;30(2):93-7. doi: 10.1515/reveh-2015-0003.


Six organochlorine pesticides and pesticide metabolites in human blood were tested to determine their relationships with diabetic nephropathy. The data were derived from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2004 (unweighted, n=2992, population estimate=133,088,752). The six chemicals were p,p'-DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane), p,p'-DDE (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethylene), beta-hexachlorocyclohexane, oxychlordane, trans-nonachlor and heptachlor epoxide. In this research, total diabetes included diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes (glycohemoglobin, A1c ≥6.5%), and nephropathy was defined as a urinary albumin to creatinine ratio >30 mg/g, representing microalbuminuria and macroalbuminuria. The pesticide p,p'-DDT and pesticide metabolite heptachlor epoxide were significantly associated with total diabetes with nephropathy, with odds ratios of 2.08 (95% CI 1.06-4.11) and 1.75 (95% CI 1.05-2.93), respectively. Organochlorine pesticides are thought to act through the constitutive androstane receptor/pregnane X receptor disease pathway, but this is not well established. When p,p'-DDT and heptachlor epoxide were both elevated, the odds ratio for diabetic nephropathy was 2.76 (95% CI 1.31-5.81), and when six of six organochlorine pesticides and pesticide metabolites, were elevated, the odds ratio for diabetic nephropathy was 3.00 (95% CI 1.08-8.36). The differences in the odds ratios for these groups appear to be due to differences in the mean heptachlor epoxide concentration of each category. Organochlorine pesticides and pesticide metabolites are known to have estrogenic, antiestrogenic or antiandrogenic activity. The constitutive androstane receptor/pregnane X receptor pathway is thought to interact with the aryl hydrocarbon receptor pathway, and the associations noted may be due to that interaction.

MeSH terms

  • DDT / blood
  • DDT / toxicity*
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / epidemiology
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / etiology*
  • Heptachlor Epoxide / blood
  • Heptachlor Epoxide / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Insecticides / blood
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Insecticides
  • Heptachlor Epoxide
  • DDT