Transplacental transfer characteristics of organochlorine pesticides in paired maternal and cord sera, and placentas and possible influencing factors

Environ Pollut. 2018 Feb;233:446-454. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2017.10.075. Epub 2017 Nov 5.


Organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), including dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and its metabolites [dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE) and dichlorodiphenyldichloroethane], hexachlorocyclohexanes (HCHs), and hexachlorobenzene (HCB), are widely detected in humans despite the considerable decline in environmental concentrations. To understand the placental transfer of OCPs and the possible maternal influence on them, we measured the concentrations of DDTs, HCHs, and HCB in 102 paired samples of maternal and cord sera, and placentas collected in Shanghai, China. The median concentrations of DDTs and HCHs were the highest in maternal sera (601, 188 ng g-1 lipid), followed by umbilical cord sera (389, 131 ng g-1 lipid), and placentas (65, 37 ng g-1 lipid). 4,4'-DDE, β-HCH, and HCB were the predominant contaminants in the three matrices. The ubiquitous existence of OCPs, and the significant concentration relationships of DDTs, HCHs, and OCPs in the three matrices suggested placental transfer from mother to fetus. The lipid-based concentration ratios of 4,4'-DDE, β-HCH, and HCB in umbilical cord serum to those in maternal serum (F/M), and ratios of placenta to maternal serum (P/M) ranged from 0.66 to 1.01, and 0.12 to 0.25, respectively. Maternal variables affected the levels of fetal contamination. For primiparous women, significant correlations between maternal age and maternal HCHs, and between pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) and maternal HCHs were found. The negative effect of parity, and the positive effect of food consumption on maternal OCP concentrations were also observed, although there were no significant differences. The possible influence of parity on F/M and P/M of 4,4'-DDE suggested borderline significant differences between primiparous and multiparous women. Also, slight group differences were observed between elder and younger women, and between overweight and normal/underweight women. Parity seems to have a potential influence on transfer ratios of some OCP pollutants.

Keywords: Maternal serum; Organochlorine pesticides; Placenta; Transplacental transfer; Umbilical cord serum.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • China
  • DDT / blood
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene / blood
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollutants / blood*
  • Female
  • Hexachlorobenzene / blood
  • Hexachlorocyclohexane / blood
  • Hexachlorocyclohexane / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / analysis
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated / blood*
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Pesticides / analysis
  • Pesticides / blood*
  • Placenta / chemistry
  • Pregnancy
  • Young Adult


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Hydrocarbons, Chlorinated
  • Pesticides
  • Dichlorodiphenyl Dichloroethylene
  • Hexachlorobenzene
  • Hexachlorocyclohexane
  • DDT
  • beta-hexachlorocyclohexane