Exposure to persistent organic pollutants: impact on women's health

Rev Environ Health. 2018 Dec 19;33(4):331-348. doi: 10.1515/reveh-2018-0018.


This literature review focuses on the causal relationship between persistent organic pollutants (POPs) exposure and women's health disorders, particularly cancer, cardio-metabolic events and reproductive health. Progressive industrialization has resulted in the production of a multitude of chemicals that are released into the environment on a daily basis. Environmental chemicals or pollutants are not only hazardous to our ecosystem but also lead to various health problems that affect the human population worldwide irrespective of gender, race or age. However, most environmental health studies that have been conducted, until recently, were exclusively biased with regard to sex and gender, beginning with exposure studies that were reported mostly in male, occupational workers and animal studies being carried out mostly in male rodent models. Health-related issues pertaining to women of all age groups have not been studied thoroughly and rather disregarded in most aspects of basic health science research and it is therefore pertinent that we address these limitations in environmental health. The review also addresses studies looking at the associations between health outcomes and exposures to POPs, particularly, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins and pesticides, reported in cohort studies while accounting for gender differences. Considering that current levels of POPs in women can also impact future generations, informative guidelines related to dietary patterns and exposure history are needed for women of reproductive age. Additionally, occupational cohorts of highly exposed women worldwide, such as women working in manufacturing plants and female pesticide applicators are required to gather more information on population susceptibility and disease pathology.

Keywords: POPs; breast cancer; cardiovascular; metabolic; women.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / etiology
  • Heart Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Diseases / etiology
  • Metabolic Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Reproductive Health*
  • Women's Health*


  • Environmental Pollutants