Association of dioxins, furans and dioxin-like PCBs in human blood with nephropathy among US teens and young adults

Rev Environ Health. 2016 Jun 1;31(2):195-201. doi: 10.1515/reveh-2015-0031.


We assessed the association of three chlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, a chlorinated dibenzofuran, and four dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in human blood with nephropathy (microalbuminuria or macroalbuminuria) among teens and young adults (12-30 years old) having normal glycohemoglobin (A1c <5.7%). The data were derived from the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (unweighted n=1504, population estimate=38,806,338). In this paper, nephropathy refers to normal A1c with nephropathy. In an all-adult sample (Everett CJ, Thompson OM. Dioxins, furans and dioxin-like PCBs in human blood: causes or consequences of diabetic nephropathy? Environ Res 2014;132:126-31), the cut-offs for these chemicals being considered elevated, were defined as the 75th percentile. Using these same cut-offs again, the proportion of those with one or more of the eight dioxin-like compounds elevated was 9.9%. The four chemicals associated with nephropathy were 1,2,3,6,7,8-hexachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, PCB 126, PCB 169, and PCB 156. The proportion with one or more of these four dioxin-like chemicals elevated was 3.9% (unweighted n=46) and the odds ratio (OR) for nephropathy was 7.1 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.8-28.1]. The association was strong among females (OR 17.4, 95% CI 3.4-88.6), but among males there were no cases of nephropathy when one or more of the four dioxin-like chemicals were elevated, and therefore no association. In a separate analysis, elevated toxic equivalency, defined using the eight dioxin-like chemicals (TEQ8), was associated with nephropathy. TEQ8 ≥50.12 fg/g included 2.6% of the sample (unweighted n=28) and had an OR of 5.8 (95% 1.3-25.9) for nephropathy. As found in the analysis of one or more of four dioxin-like chemicals elevated, TEQ8 ≥50.12 fg/g was associated with nephropathy among females (OR 11.9, 95% CI 1.6-87.2), but not males. Trends for least-squares means also differed by gender, but there were no significant differences in mean TEQ8 between normal subjects and those having nephropathy in either males or females. We also evaluated pre-diabetes (A1c 5.7-6.4%) without nephropathy and found no associations when one or more of four dioxin-like compounds were elevated, or when TEQ8 was ≥50.12 fg/g. In this study, associations of dioxin-like chemicals with nephropathy were found among females at an early age. Prospective studies are needed to determine if dioxin-like compounds cause nephropathy, or if these relationships are cases of reverse causation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Albuminuria / blood
  • Albuminuria / chemically induced*
  • Albuminuria / diagnosis
  • Child
  • Dioxins / blood
  • Dioxins / toxicity*
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Furans / blood
  • Furans / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / blood
  • Kidney Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Kidney Diseases / diagnosis
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / blood
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity*
  • Prediabetic State / blood
  • Prediabetic State / chemically induced*
  • Prediabetic State / diagnosis
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Dioxins
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Furans
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls