Prenatal DDT exposure and child adiposity at age 12: The CHAMACOS study

Environ Res. 2017 Nov:159:606-612. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2017.08.050. Epub 2017 Sep 13.


Objective: Using data from the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS) birth cohort study, we assessed the association of in utero exposure to dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and dichlorodiphenylethylene (DDE) with child adiposity at age 12.

Methods: We included 240 children with o,p'-DDT, p,p'-DDT, and p,p'-DDE concentrations measured in maternal serum collected during pregnancy (ng/g lipid) and complete 12-year follow-up data. Age- and sex-specific body mass index (BMI) z-scores were calculated from CDC growth charts. Children with BMI z-scores ≥ 85th percentile were classified as overweight or obese.

Results: At 12 years, BMI z-score averaged 1.09 (±1.03) and 55.4% of children were overweight or obese. Prenatal DDT and DDE exposure was associated with several adiposity measures in boys but not girls. Among boys, 10-fold increases in prenatal DDT and DDE concentrations were associated with increased BMI z-score (o,p'-DDT, adj-β=0.37, 95% CI: 0.08, 0.65; p,p'-DDT, adj-β = 0.26, 95% CI: 0.03, 0.48; p,p'-DDE, adj-β = 0.31, 95% CI: 0.02, 0.59). Results for girls were nonsignificant. The difference by sex persisted after considering pubertal status.

Conclusions: These results support the chemical obesogen hypothesis, that in utero exposure to DDT and DDE may increase risk of obesity in males later in life.

Keywords: Body mass index; Children; Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane; Obesity; Prenatal exposure.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity / drug effects*
  • California
  • Child
  • DDT / adverse effects*
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insecticides / adverse effects
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Insecticides
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene
  • DDT