Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
. 2018 May 22;2(8):832-841.
doi: 10.1210/js.2017-00480. eCollection 2018 Aug 1.

Elevated Levels of Organochlorine Pesticides in South Asian Immigrants Are Associated With an Increased Risk of Diabetes

Free PMC article

Elevated Levels of Organochlorine Pesticides in South Asian Immigrants Are Associated With an Increased Risk of Diabetes

Sarah I Daniels et al. J Endocr Soc. .
Free PMC article


Objective: Rates of diabetes mellitus are higher in South Asians than in other populations and persist after migration. One unexplored cause may be higher exposure to persistent organic pollutants associated with diabetes in other populations. We compared organochlorine (OC) pesticide concentrations in South Asian immigrants and European whites to determine whether the disease was positively associated with OC pesticides in South Asians.

Research design and methods: South Asians of Tamil or Telugu descent (n = 120) and European whites (n = 72) were recruited into the London Life Sciences Population Study cohort. Blood samples as well as biometric, clinical, and survey data were collected. Plasma levels of p,p'-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), p,p'- dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, β-hexachlorohexane (HCH), and polychlorinated biphenyl-118 were analyzed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. South Asian cases and controls were categorized by binary exposure (above vs below the 50th percentile) to perform logistic regression.

Results: Tamils had approximately threefold to ninefold higher levels of OC pesticides, and Telugus had ninefold to 30-fold higher levels compared with European whites. The odds of exposure to p,p'-DDE above the 50th percentile was significantly greater in South Asian diabetes cases than in controls (OR: 7.00; 95% CI: 2.22, 22.06). The odds of exposure to β-HCH above the 50th percentile was significantly greater in the Tamil cases than in controls (OR: 9.35; 95% CI: 2.43, 35.97).

Conclusions: South Asian immigrants have a higher body burden of OC pesticides than European whites. Diabetes mellitus is associated with higher p,p'-DDE and β-HCH concentrations in this population. Additional longitudinal studies of South Asian populations should be performed.

Keywords: India; Sri Lanka; dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE); dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT); hexachlorohexane; persistent organic pollutants.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 5 articles


    1. Cavan D, de Rocha Fernandes J, Makaroff L, Ogurtsova K., Webber S. IDF Diabetes Atlas, 8th ed.Brussels, Belgium: International Diabetes Foundation;2017. Accessed 1 June 2018.
    1. Barnett AH, Dixon AN, Bellary S, Hanif MW, O’hare JP, Raymond NT, Kumar S. Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular risk in the UK South Asian community. Diabetologia. 2006;49(10):2234–2246. - PubMed
    1. Tillin T, Hughes AD, Godsland IF, Whincup P, Forouhi NG, Welsh P, Sattar N, McKeigue PM, Chaturvedi N. Insulin resistance and truncal obesity as important determinants of the greater incidence of diabetes in Indian Asians and African Caribbeans compared with Europeans: the Southall And Brent REvisited (SABRE) cohort. Diabetes Care. 2013;36(2):383–393. - PMC - PubMed
    1. Gujral UP, Pradeepa R, Weber MB, Narayan KM, Mohan V. Type 2 diabetes in South Asians: similarities and differences with white Caucasian and other populations. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2013;1281(1):51–63. - PMC - PubMed
    1. Kooner JS, Saleheen D, Sim X, Sehmi J, Zhang W, Frossard P, Been LF, Chia KS, Dimas AS, Hassanali N, Jafar T, Jowett JB, Li X, Radha V, Rees SD, Takeuchi F, Young R, Aung T, Basit A, Chidambaram M, Das D, Grundberg E, Hedman AK, Hydrie ZI, Islam M, Khor CC, Kowlessur S, Kristensen MM, Liju S, Lim WY, Matthews DR, Liu J, Morris AP, Nica AC, Pinidiyapathirage JM, Prokopenko I, Rasheed A, Samuel M, Shah N, Shera AS, Small KS, Suo C, Wickremasinghe AR, Wong TY, Yang M, Zhang F, Abecasis GR, Barnett AH, Caulfield M, Deloukas P, Frayling TM, Froguel P, Kato N, Katulanda P, Kelly MA, Liang J, Mohan V, Sanghera DK, Scott J, Seielstad M, Zimmet PZ, Elliott P, Teo YY, McCarthy MI, Danesh J, Tai ES, Chambers JC. Genome-wide association study in individuals of South Asian ancestry identifies six new type 2 diabetes susceptibility loci. Nat Genet. 2011;43(10):984–989. - PMC - PubMed