Prepubertal Serum Concentrations of Organochlorine Pesticides and Age at Sexual Maturity in Russian Boys

Environ Health Perspect. 2015 Nov;123(11):1216-21. doi: 10.1289/ehp.1409022. Epub 2015 May 22.


Background: Few human studies have evaluated the impact of childhood exposure to organochlorine pesticides (OCP) on pubertal development.

Objective: We evaluated associations of serum OCP concentrations [hexachlorobenzene (HCB), β-hexachlorocyclohexane (βHCH), and p,p-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (p,p´-DDE)] with age at attainment of sexual maturity among boys.

Methods: From 2003 through 2005, 350 8- to 9-year-old boys from Chapaevsk, Russia, with measured OCPs were enrolled and followed annually for 8 years. We used multivariable interval-censored models to evaluate associations of OCPs (quartiles) with three physician-assessed measures of sexual maturity: Tanner stage 5 for genitalia growth, Tanner stage 5 for pubic hair growth, or testicular volume (TV) ≥ 20 mL in either testis.

Results: In adjusted models, boys with higher HCB concentrations achieved sexual maturity reflected by TV ≥ 20 mL a mean of 3.1 months (95% CI: -1.7, 7.8), 5.3 months (95% CI: 0.6, 10.1), and 5.0 months (95% CI: 0.2, 9.8) later for quartiles Q2, Q3, and Q4, respectively, compared with Q1 (p trend = 0.04). Tanner stage 5 for genitalia growth was attained a mean of 2.2 months (95% CI: -3.1, 7.5), 5.7 months (95% CI: 0.4, 11.0), and 3.7 months (95% CI: -1.7, 9.1) later for quartiles Q2, Q3, and Q4, respectively, of βHCH compared with Q1 (p trend = 0.09). Tanner stage 5 for pubic hair growth occurred 6-9 months later on average for boys in the highest versus lowest quartile for HCB (p trend < 0.001), βHCH (trend p = 0.01), and p,p´-DDE (p trend = 0.04). No associations were observed between p,p´-DDE and Tanner stage 5 for genitalia growth or TV ≥ 20 mL.

Conclusions and relevance: Higher prepubertal serum HCB and βHCH concentrations were associated with a later age at attainment of sexual maturity. Only the highest quartile of serum p,p´-DDE was associated with later pubic hair maturation.

Citation: Lam T, Williams PL, Lee MM, Korrick SA, Birnbaum LS, Burns JS, Sergeyev O, Revich B, Altshul LM, Patterson DG Jr, Hauser R. 2015. Prepubertal serum concentrations of organochlorine pesticides and age at sexual maturity in Russian boys. Environ Health Perspect 123:1216-1221;

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / blood*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Hexachlorobenzene / blood*
  • Hexachlorocyclohexane / blood*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pesticides / blood
  • Russia / epidemiology
  • Sexual Maturation*


  • Pesticides
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene
  • Hexachlorobenzene
  • Hexachlorocyclohexane
  • beta-hexachlorocyclohexane